After watching The Descendants last night, I instantly knew this was the best movie I have seen in 2011. Between all the action of Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, and the much anticipated The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Descendants really flies under the radar. The ones that do usually get the most recognition from a quality standpoint. Back in 2006 a movie that most are familiar with now; Little Miss Sunshine, had a very similar vibe to The Descendants. A dysfunctional family, that just goes with the flow. Each family member has a specific issue yet the bigger picture trumps it all.
The Descendants is about a man with two daughters and a wife who has been involved in a tragic boating accident in Waikiki. The movie opens with the sentiment that most people consider Hawaii paradise, but Matt King played by George Clooney, tells the audience right off the bat, that Hawaii is not immune to pain. He makes it very clear that people who live in Hawaii are normal people with the same cancer, the same money issues, the same everything as any other population in any other state. His wife’s boating accident puts her in a coma, and Matt as well as his daughters go through a tragic and sometimes humerus journey to find one particular person.
George Clooney plays Matt King whose descendants are quite legendary in Hawaii. They date back many years, and have left his entire family a prime piece of land that his late father has given full decision making to Matt. Along with making the right decision on that piece of land, Matt is dealing with his wife who is in a coma, and two daughters who Matt has barely spent time with over the years. Clooney delivers another fantastic performance of a man who is extremely decent at heart, but finds out so many complicated things about his wife and kids while this tragic situation is unfolding. How he deals with it, and how his daughters deal with it encompasses a raw and emotional story that can only be described as unique.
If you don’t know who Shailene Woodley is, I guarantee you will after watching this film. Woodley plays Alexandra King a tough and stubborn child who has had her own issues with her crippled mother. Alexandra is the prototypical rebel child, smart as can be but lacks the attention she so badly needs. This was my first time seeing Shailene Woodley on screen, but I have to say I am a fan of her work in this one.I was impressed with her ability to keep up with Clooney, and her raw talent at delivering what’s on her mind so directly. It’s a very well played role that lets you see what a disturbed young teenage girl is going through, and how spending time with her father can change that.
Little Amara Miller plays the youngest daughter Scottie King. It’s a very impressive job for a girl who has never starred in a motion picture. The situation is bleak, and even though Scottie doesn’t really understand what’s going on, she is smart enough to realize that something is wrong. Scottie looks up to her big sister Alexandra, and throughout the film you see a family bond start to grow. When I say “start to grow” I really don’t mean it in a lubby dubby type way. The entire family is hard headed, but when one mission makes them team up, things get interesting fast.
Every movie has a scene stealer right? Nick Krause who plays Sid, defines the phrase “scene stealer.” It’s not clear who Sid is, and why he tags along with the family through this journey, but when it’s all said and done he’s a welcome addition to the clan. He is Alexandra’s friend, and she consistently says she won’t do anything without him, that he keeps her sane. Nick Krause is another actor I am not familiar with, but he will make you laugh so hard in this film. He plays the “dumb surfer dude” role but really has a heart of gold. It’s such an endearing role, you won’t forget his expressions and words after the movie finishes. Great casting, great acting on his part.
Some welcomed additions to the cast are Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Robert Forster and Beau Bridges. I can’t say much about Greer, and Lillard’s character I would much rather have anyone reading this watch the movie. They are key pieces to a fascinating story.
If you are looking for a unique story, then The Descendants gets the job done. It’s different, unique, sad, funny, shocking, and captivating. It is by far my favorite movie of 2011, and I am sure more people will be intrigued by this film as the award season approaches.
My 1-10 scale= 9