The Descendants

I enjoyed The Descendants, but think it should be called The Descendant since this movie is so tightly focused on George Clooney‘s character, an out of touch husband and father dealing with a wife who’s in a coma, the prospect of single parenthood of two smart aleck girls and the shock that his wife was unfaithful. I wouldn’t say this is Clooney’s best work or anyone’s, but it’s good enough.

The film’s gorgeous, lush setting, Hawai’i offers a balm for the soul as viewers watch Clooney’s Matt King try to keep it together. He’s got a tough exterior, but we get a lot of voice overs that demonstrate that inside he does have a heart of flesh. Matt’s very much a loner even when he’s with others which makes him a character that’s hard to film. He knows a lot of people, but his friends, aren’t close. There’s always a physical and emotional distance between Matt and his friends and family.

Eventually, he and his oldest daughter Alex grow closer, but I wouldn’t call them close. The film is sophisticated in that Matt’s desire isn’t clear to him and in the end what he gets is more abstract and uncertain. I’m not convinced he’s a changed man in a big way. I’d categorize this as a slice of life film, without an Aristotelean plot.

One weird thing was how the youngest daughter began as an important character, but she fades away and becomes more of a prop once Alex, the older daughter appears and reveals that she knows her mother had an affair. I found the lover’s occupation to be a contrivance that annoyed me. I could see how things would connect once I learned that he was in real estate.

I felt this film was pretty good, but not excellent. It’s been awhile since I saw it, but I did sympathize more with Steven Carell‘s Dan in Dan in Real Life, probably because that single father with troubled teens tried so hard. Dan did the laundry, while Matt takes the kids to Oahu mainly to track down his wife’s lover. At times I felt that the movie was made as therapy for someone dealing with a cheating wife. That’s just a theory.


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