Paradise Can Go Screw Itself!

The Descendants (2011)
A Review by Ben Hunter
4 Out of 5 Stars
November 16, 2011
“My friends on the main land think just because I live in Hawaii, I live in paradise.  Like a permanent vacation.  We’re all just out here sipping mai tais (‘my ties’), shaking our hips, and catching waves.  Are they insane?  Do they think we’re immune to life?  How can they possibly think our families are less screwed up, our cancers less fatal, our heartaches less painful?  Hell, I haven’t been on a surfboard in 15 years.  
For the last 23 days, I’ve been living in a paradise of I.V.’s, and urine bags, and tracheal tubes.  
Paradise? … Paradise can go fuck itself!” 
A beautifully dark painting that director Alexander Payne and company have set in the beautifully bright “paradise” of Hawaii. 

This well written quote sets the tone of this well written story of Matt King (George Clooney) whose wife was injured in a boating accident in Hawaii.  She’s in a coma and is in constant pain.  This accident opens Matt’s eyes to being a better husband to her and a better father to their 2 daughters Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller).  He’s ready to talk, change, grow, and move forward with his marriage and his family, all for the better. 

All of this tragic ordeal with his wife and reconnecting with his children is an unexpected occurrence that drops in the middle of the end phase of a big business deal that can make Matt and all of his living family very rich.  Acres upon acres of land on one of the islands have been in Matt’s family for generations upon generations.  So Matt and his family are all “The Descendants” of the people that own this land that’s a gold mine to the state of HI and the rest of the world.  People from everywhere are trying to buy it and turn it into public property for everyone to enjoy (shopping malls, condos, hotels, golf courses, etc).  Matt’s father had control of the power over the land and when he passed, Matt became the sole controller over this entire transaction.  So people were always nudging Matt to “do what is right” with the land, all while dealing with his wife’s accident and doing the sole parenting as his wife did most of the raising of the children. 

This is a great story of a father reconnecting with his children, discovering what’s best for his family, and taking charge for the better of his family.  As a future father someday, I have nothing but respect for that.  I may go about it differently, but in the end we all want the same thing:  a happy and healthy family. 

The Descendants is a great film to bring couples and older children together and rediscover the importance of the family and how they must stick together, putting back the pieces as they may fall apart from time to time. 

George Clooney delivers one of his best performances and Judy Greer, an amazing actress within this film, is by far one of the most likeable actors I’ve seen in awhile!  I just want her to succeed in everything she does, simply because of the demeanor she embraces us with.

A major point that I've come to realize is the film doesn't address the concept of "death" and "spirituality" ... AT ALL.  The woman is dead ... what now?  I was trying to figure it out and just couldn't put my finger on it as to why this movie was 100% amazing and I think this is why.  There's a 10 year old girl who just found out that her mother just died and, "where did mommy go after she died?" would've been the PERFECT question for her to ask and for the film to LIGHTLY address this topic, the sense of completion isn't truly fulfilled without this topic being addressed.  I believe it was left out on purpose as there were THREE writers on this film and it makes sense to think they just didn't want to open this door and give the film an unintended label; so they had an "open yet closed" ending to give you that impression that this was addressed in the story, just not shown in the part of the story that we the audience experienced.

Nonetheless, The Descendants is definitely one of the year’s best films.  Its "wow factor" isn't all that high that shocks and amazes you leaving you with an exciting rush of energy as you can't believe how great the movie is; but it's definitely a must see for viewers everywhere!

The Descendants
Drama, 115 Minutes, R
Directed By: Alexander Payne
Written By:  Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Judy Greer

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