Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Descendants


Matt King (George Clooney) opens the movie narration by pointing out that, though they may indeed live in paradise, the citizens of Hawaii face all the headaches, hardships, and heartaches everybody else has. Quite true. When your wife or mother is comatose and will never get better, it sucks no matter where you are. But as the movie goes on and they lounge on white beaches, canoe out in the ocean, live in their airy homes, jet from island to island, drive through scenes of incredible splendor … well, it’s hard not to think that, if you have to deal with headaches and heartaches, there are better and worse places to deal with them. I mean, check it out. These people dress in aloha shirts every day, even in corporate boardrooms. They spend most of their time barefoot; when they put on shoes it’s flip-flops. They have no heating bills. Add in the fact that Matt’s family owns the last 25,000 acres of untouched beach property in the state, and working up a real sad-on for them was a little tough for me.

However, bottom line, what he said is true. His problems are real, and he’s having a hard time dealing with them, including the question of what to do with the land. Take the half billion dollars and run, leaving behind one more oil slick on paradise in the form of golf courses and condos for haoles, or try somehow to preserve it? As for the comatose wife … there is a revelation early on that she had been having an affair, and he’s the last to know. How much fun would that be to deal with, as she’s lying there, brain-dead? There are funny moments here, along with some sad ones, and good writing and acting all around. But I didn’t think it was Best Picture material.

Bemused aside: As the picture was drawing to a close, I wondered who they got for the role of Matt’s wife. Later, I found out she was played by Patricia Hastie. I’d been sort of expecting her to show up in a flashback, with a winsome smile and hair blowing in the wind. That’s what usually happens to actors playing dead or dying spouses in films: they pose for some photos, and show up in old 8mm films or videos. But no. She’s a stalk of broccoli throughout the film. I try to imagine her agent trying to sell this part to her. “Talk? No, I’m afraid not. Walk … well, it’s not in the script. Open your eyes? Sorry hon, no. Twitch a finger? Not gonna happen. Basically, you lie there, and in each scene you’re made up to look sicker. But wait, don’t go! You get to hold George Clooney’s hand!”