At the outset “The Descendants” is a movie based on two, maybe three thin threads of stories with common characters.
The first one deals with Matt King who is the Managing Trustee of a trust which controls 25000 acres of virgin untouched land in the island of Ka’aui in Hawaii. King and his family members (read cousins, extended cousins, etc) are in the process of finalizing a deal to sell off the land and make a fortune.
The second thread deals with how Elizabeth King, Matt’s wife has met with a boating accident and has gone into a coma. The doctors declare that she is not going to come out of the coma and as per Elizabeth’s ‘living will’ she must be disconnected from life support and allowed to die. Matt, who all this time has only been a ‘backup parent’ to his daughters must now figure out how to reconcile to Elizabeth’s death, bring up his teenage daughters who he barely even knows well enough while dealing with the entire Trust dealings.
As if these weren’t enough, Matt’s elder daughter Alexandra reveals to him that Elizabeth had been having an affair with another person behind Matt’s back. This all but completely drains Matt’s patience and tests him to the extreme.
The beauty of this movie is the fact that all 3 of these threads have been so nicely interwoven and despite the fact that each one of these is big enough for individual movies by themselves, the fact that they have been dealt with extremely matter of factly without too much of drama thrown in is what takes the cake. Each one of the characters, Matt King, his daughters Alexandra and Scottie, Scottie’s friend Sid, Elizabeth’s old father, the real estate agent with whom Elizabeth was having an affair, have been well written and do complete justice to their roles.
George Clooney, as Matt King, who is torn between anger at his wife for her affair, sorrow for losing his wife, utter confusion and despair as to how to be a good father to his daughters, plays the role of a lifetime in this movie. I personally thought Clooney touched new heights in his roles in Michael Clayton and Up in the Air, but with The Descendants he takes it a couple of notches higher. Now I really have to watch The Ides of March in which he is once again said to have done an awesome job. That probably is going to be watched and reviewed sometime soon.
Roger Ebert who in my opinion is probably one of the best movie reviewers around gave The Descendants a 4 Star Rating and goes on to say – “What happens is that we get vested in the lives of these characters. That’s rare in a lot of movies. We come to understand how they think and care about what they decide.” Now if that isn’t reason enough to watch this movie, what else is?