Film Review: The Descendants
|George Clooney and Shailene Woodley‘s charaters play off each other perfectly in The Descendants|
Set in Hawaii, the narrative takes off with Matt telling us about his wife Elizabeth’s speedboat accident which has left her comatose. For the last 15 days, he has been surrounded by medical bills and hospital paraphernalia, and he has been handling two daughters, 17-year old Alex (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year old Scottie (Amara Miller), who can be quite a handful and are picking up quite a mouthful. He confesses he has never really been around for them, and he has no clue about what to do now.
The plot then follows Matt as he bonds with his daughters (over big bowlfuls of ice cream), informs friends and relatives of his wife’s impending death, and goes through a personal journey discovering facets of anger, jealousy, restraint and competitiveness and the preservation of his self-respect and dignity; feelings that he had not experienced so deeply before.
Director Alexander Payne‘s (About Schmidt, Sideways) The Descendants is a close look at real families, where humour and light moments make appearances even during troubled times, and act as the impetus to seeking positive ways to deal with them. Woodley is a gifted actor who plays wonderfully off Clooney’s relative reticence with her still-maturing adulthood and the bit of drama that girls her character’s age are prone to.
The film is not just a satirical take on American society or about the beautiful Hawaiian setting. It is about the tumultous phase in a man’s life and his personal struggle to overcome the ill-feelings that threaten his happiness and his faith in himself – the phase being marked by perfectly defined moments of Matt’s recognition of how important Elizabeth was to him and the resolution of his anger, anxiety, indecisiveness and resumption of a normal life with Alex and Scottie. He wants to be capable, to be accepted and to be at peace with himself, which he succeeds in finding at the end of this phase.