Wednesday, 23 November 2011 23:58

The Descendants Featured

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Fox Searchlight Pictures and Ad Hominem Enterprises present an R rated, 115 minute comedy, drama, directed by Alexander Payne, written by Payne and Nat Faxon with a major city release date of November 16, 2011.

I have been to Hawaii twice and although Honolulu was nice I honestly fell in love with Hilo, the big Island, and stayed at a beautiful hotel in Kona, celebrating the birthday of the dolphins that reside at the hotel cove.  The people were warm and inviting, the week was nothing short of amazing and the landscapes would take your breath away for sure.  As for Matt King (George Clooney), he is the father of two, teenager Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and 10 year old Scottie (Amarca Miller) and husband of Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie).  Not a huge role for Hastie since she spends pretty much all of her time in a coma at Queens Hospital in Hawaii.  Matt has not enjoyed much of the islands since for the last several weeks all he experienced were IV’s, urine bags and hospital food.  Matt has lived there his entire life and what once was new to him is now nothing but every day and typical so he has not been as crazed about the beauty of the islands like that of a tourist since he sees them all the time.  Living in Florida I can relate to a degree.  It seems no matter where you live the daily chores of life eventually prevent you from enjoying what surrounds you every day.


Matt’s ancestors back in the 1800’s acquired a lot of land in Hawaii and it has been passed down through generations.  On the island of Kauai his family tree owns over 25,000 acres of virgin Hawaiian landscapes that is literally worth multimillions but with a 7 year cap and Matt being the trustee to the land a decision must be made about selling the property possibly to someone that will maintain the scenery rather than just move in and tear it all apart.  Matt is a structured and moral man that never believed in living off his land but rather off his law practice.  Living in a normal home and treating his children with a somewhat normal lifestyle it has helped to keep the daughters grounded.  Well, kind of!  Scottie has her many moments, dealing with the possible death of her mother and as for Alexandra, she’s been spending time at the Hawaiian Pacific Institute with hopes from her father that she will straighten up her life leaving behind any thoughts of drugs, men and alcohol.  It’s been perceived by Matt that all women are truly on a self-destructive line, no matter how old they are.

Alex holds a hatred for her mother, even while she lay there dying, Alex had a few choice words to share but none so amazing then when she sat down with her father to tell him that before her mother’s boating accident that left her in a coma, she was sleeping with another man, Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard).  Matt runs out of the house, through the neighborhood, ending up in the home of Kai (Mary Birdsong) and Mark Mitchell (Rob Huebel) confronting them on if it was true that his wife had a lover.  In which they reply, yes!  What makes a person cheat?  Is it the facts they party too much, work too much or have just gone separate ways in their mind making it seem ok to sleep around?  Maybe it’s a combination of them all!  Either way Matt is not only faced with the fact his wife is dying but that she also cheated on him more than once with Brian.  The director really does an exceptional job at exposing the true inner emotions of the characters and how they deal with the fact that the woman they all looked up to is dying and that she cheated on their father and ultimately the family.

One ounce of levity in the film is surely attributed to Sid (Nick Krause) a dear friend of Alexandra’s that tags along to give her moral support.  One problem with Sid is that he tends to speak his mind and not necessarily in the most intelligent manner.  When they all decide to meet Elizabeth’s parents Tutu (Barbara L. Southern) and Scott Thorson (Robert Forster) it doesn’t take long for Sid to get on grandpa’s bad side.  A father always thinks his daughter is a good girl but sometimes little do they know.  Thankfully though for the grandparent’s sake no one told them exactly what their daughter was all about, instead leaving Matt to take the whole angered force that it was his fault, that he was never around when she needed him.  Saying goodbye is truly the hardest moment in time and for each and every person it is handled in many different ways.  This story plays true to my own life and the weeks I spent by my mother’s side as she laid there in a coma, silent and unaware of the pain her family was endearing as we watched her body fade away.  Some say it is hardest on the people left behind than for the one passing and I must say I find that to be true.  I think as we get older we begin to accept the fact that life will end but when it comes our way at a young age it is never expected nor accepted by everyone.

Interesting though that Matt, after hunting him down for days, made the decision to tell her lover, Brian, that she was dying, giving him the opportunity to see her before she dies.  Not only does the director and writers delve into the life of Matt and his daughters but also how one person like Elizabeth is able to effect the lives of others in life and death.  Brian has reasons to be involved with Elizabeth and of course one major benefit but he doesn’t seem to think about the three living breathing reasons not to be involved with another woman.  The director handles this situation in a way that many think they would not but as humans we all deal with pain and anger in many different ways and to see the expressions and actions of Clooney are truly priceless and challenging at the same time.  I believe Clooney is sure to hear his name come Oscar time.

Having to say you’re sorry is part of life’s many challenges and sometimes the people that say it were never the ones at fault like Brian’s wife Julie (Judy Greer) who deals with passing on forgiveness , an emotion that was not even her fault in the first place.  When it comes time at a family gathering for Matt to make the choice to sell the land of his ancestors he is faced with many reasons to sell and many personal ones not to sell.  Either way even though they are all family some agree and some disagree with Matt’s final decision.  As we all know when a decision involves money for some people even though they may be family the claws come out and a swipe to the jugular can of course do more than enough damage.  Honestly this film is probably one of the best in years that deals with a perfect mix of emotions, sure to have you think about your own life and death. 

This film is surely a journey for an entire family that will truly have you reflecting on your own life and the choices that are made that could change direction in the blink of an eye.  The direction and writing is impeccable and a must see to appreciate, accompanied with a back-drop of beautiful scenery that although breath-taking  it takes a back seat to the characters and the situations that each of them face amongst one another. 

Clooney is perfection with every spoken word, movement and expression.  Woodley brings her game second to Clooney making her role believable and perfect with every spoken word and reaction.  Miller does a nice job considering her age but at times seems to lack the strength of her co-stars.  Krause is priceless adding a much needed frame of levity into the lives of a father and two daughters that are dealing with the death of their mother.  The rest of the actors are all truly good at their skills but like the scenery of Hawaii just a backdrop to the main characters in the film.  Probably one of the best films of the year that deals with family, decisions, emotions, life and death and the values or lack thereof that exist in the families all hidden behind closed doors.  Written, understood and appreciated with four paws out of four by Jon Patch.

Read 3065 times Last modified on Thursday, 24 November 2011 00:07
Jon Patch

Graduated from Penn State University in 1983 and landed my first broadcasting job at the flagship station to SUN Radio Network in St. Petersburg, FL as a producer of talk radio. In 3 months advanced to a network producer, then on air as a national eventually local weather reporter for the Tampa Bay area. Held a position in management as a trainer to new hosts and producers and later Affiliate Relations Manager, eventually in 1990 started hosting, Talkin' Pets. Left SUN radio several years later and worked with USA Radio Networks for 1 year. I worked with Business TalkRadio & Lifestyle TalkRadio Networks for19 years under the title of V.P. Affiliate Relations and Programming, later worked with Genesis Communications until starting a new network ATRN.  Currently working with GAB Radio Network and with Josh Leng at Talk Media Network.  I am still hosting the largest and longest running pet radio and internet show in the country, Talkin' Pets, for the past 29 years... My one true passion in life is to help to educate the world through interviews with celebrities like Betty White, Tippi Hedren, Bob Barker, Linda Blair and others, authors, foundations and organizations like the ASPCA, LCA, HSUS, AHA, WSPA on the ways to make this world a better place for all animals and mankind whom all share this very fragile and mysterious planet called earth. This is the only home we have so we all need to learn how to share and maintain it so that life for us all continues and evolves forever... | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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