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I’ve been wanting to see The Descendants for a while but every time we sat down to see a movie we’d scroll past it thinking “I’m not in the mood for a movie like that tonight”. From the previews I figured this movie was something that was going to be less of a comedic relief (which is usually what we look for in a movie) and more of a movie that would strike a cord.
I didn’t really grasp the meaning of the name, from what I heard this movie was more about a disheveling family and the aftermath of a boating accident but within the first 10 minutes of the movie the name is explained quite well. Rated R, The Descendants is poignant.
The characters and their names don’t really matter, in my opinion, George Clooney plays the dad (Matt) but he might as well have been a dad I know in real life. He could have been my dad, your dad. Your best friends dad. A workaholic who doesn’t wake up to the state of his family until the threat of losing it’s glue is presented in real time. A near death boating accident leaves his wife in a coma and it’s in the days that follow that he realizes what he’s up against.
He calls himself the back-up parent, the understudy, and then dishes on how the fact that the last time he cared for their youngest (now 10, Scottie) she was just three years old. Their oldest, Alexandra, is at boarding school and he doesn’t bring her home until the doctors tell him his wife is going to die.
Elizabeth, the mom (in a coma) was having an affair before the boating accident. Matt finds out about it from Alex – and no one’s surprised that he was clueless. He’s wrapped up in potentially the largest real estate transaction of the decade with his cousins. “The Descendants” of very land-rich genealogy, Matt is the sole-executor of the trust and they have just 7 years before it dissolves – hence the sale of 250 (2,500? It doesn’t so much matter to me, he was busy, basically) acres of virgin Hawaiian land.
So. Spoilers aside, this movie was awesome. It starts out with George Clooney narrating his loneliness piled in papers and at his wife’s bedside. It ends? With him surrounded by his daughters, the mess of saying good bye and coming to terms that the life he was trying to save was over no matter what happened next, sitting on a couch – with the silence as the soundtrack to the fullness of his life going forward.
The stand out scenes for me are many: When Alex finally lets her dad in on the secret of the affair, matter-of-factly, like any 17 year old disgusted with her parents, she doesn’t have patience for his surprise. He runs outside (fumbling to get his shoes on under one of those “Relax” metal signs we all love) and starts running down the road. He’s clumsy, old, out of shape. He can’t carry his legs and by the time he turns the corner to his neighbors (and friend’s) house his shirt is wet with sweat. He’s holding the news that he already knows Elizabeth is dying but first he needs to know, who is he?
2. Matt doesn’t ever tell his youngest what’s going on. She’s 10 and very innocent. Immature. Naieve. They let a nurse break the news to her and she turns to her dad, all the knowledge in her eyes that her mother is going to die. She’s surrounded by everyone trying to support her and yet, no one reaches for her. She also doesn’t reach for anyone. She just stands there, looking around. Trying not to cry. No one has ever grown up faster than in that single moment.
3. The scattering of Elizabeth’s ashes.
I could go on and on, obviously. I loved this movie. I loved the way they used the narrative and the silence together. I loved that, in the end, Matt seems like a good guy who finally realizes what’s important. I love that while his wife is dying, he confesses that she was his pain, as well as his love. How true is that?
I give this movie 5 out of 5 “couches” … yes. Couches. #CouchCritics. I would recommend it, people. So so much.
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