Movies: The Descendants

I read this book back when it first came out, picked it up on the New Releases shelf at the library after having recognized the title as one that many critics were lauding. And I remember liking the book, though I do not recall all the details of the story. Still, based on my recollection, the film adheres pretty well to the novel.

The Descendants is the story of Matt King (George Clooney), a lawyer in Oahu whose wife Elizabeth is in a coma after a boating accident. Matt has always been too busy for his family, and now he finds himself saddled with sole care of his daughters Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and Scotty (utterly adorable and somewhat underutilized Amara Miller). Meanwhile, Matt is also in the midst of a complicated legal arrangement in that he and his cousins must sell a large parcel of land and are trying to determine which developer's bid to accept.

As if all that weren't enough, Matt discovers Elizabeth has been having an affair.

I know from experience it is difficult to take a thoughtful story and turn it into a movie. Something like The Descendants features many conversations and not a lot of action, aside from (in this case) having George Clooney run around a lot. Still, it is a good film, and a touching one. And wardrobe did a fine job of making sure there were lots of Hawai'ian shirts to enjoy.

Still, I had to wonder if Patricia Hastie (as Elizabeth) is one of those actresses hired on crime shows to play corpses. How does one stay so still while people act around them? (I once had to play Polonius in Hamlet, and when I was killed and fell out from behind the curtain, it was the most difficult acting moment of my life to just lie there and then also remain dead weight when Hamlet pulled me off stage.)

Also, nice turn by Nick Krause as Sid, the comic relief. (And yes, I have to say that because he is from Georgetown, Texas, where I was raised.)

There isn't much to say about The Descendants. Maybe it's meant to make people think about the different ways people deal with grief. And whether one kind of grief trumps another. Is the death of a spouse worse than discovering they've had an affair? Maybe those are two kinds of deaths. If so, what happens when they coincide? Does one fail to matter in the light of the other?

It's interesting, maybe, what does and doesn't matter when faced with such a situation. What you say, and to whom . . . And the things you keep to yourself . . . Private versus public sorrow . . .

These are all things that occurred to me while watching. But I was probably putting a little too much thought into it. Problem was, I needed to think about something because the film itself didn't quite require all my attention. So on the one hand, it might be good that the film made me think. But on the other hand, I'm not sure a movie that allows your attention to wander so far is actually all that good. ::shrug::

Some movies are designed to be conversation pieces, made to bring up topics for you to think and talk about. I'm not sure that was the point of The Descendants. But that's where I landed. Because otherwise, as nice a film as it is, it would have been boring.

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