STARRING: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Nick Krause, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Beau Bridges, Amara Miller DIRECTOR: Alexander Payne
Aloha is the Hawaiian word for affection, peace, compassion and mercy and the Aloha spirit permeates George Clooneys new film The Descendants which is based on a novel by Hawaiian author Kaui
Hart Hemmings and could just as well have been set in Goa: shining sea, coconut lined beaches, lush vegetation, wealthy zamindars pottering around in rubber slippers in their homes and on the streets, the economically deprived. Mercifully, no shanties. Unlike Goa, Barack Obamas homestate doesnalt39t seem to have any. Unlike native Goans who grieve over a paradise lost, the landed gentry in Alexander ( Sideways, About Schmidt) Paynes adaptation is not wracked by nightmares of yielding to real estate sharks.
Landowning legal beagle Matt ( George Clooney) King doesnalt39t know if the windfall for his family could be detrimental to the community at large even as a cousin ( Beau Bridges) says something to the effect of,” Wealt39re not even using the land. At least the developers will use it for a resort for vacationers.” Very generous or foolish of the man, depending on whose side youalt39re on. No prizes for guessing where I stand. Ancestral property apart, Matt is also troubled by domestic complications – his wife Elizabeth lies in a coma in hospital after a surfing accident, and hes unable to cope with their two daughters, 17 year old Alexandra ( Shailene Woodley) and ten year old Scottie.
Thats not all. Most of Matts cousins wants to dispose of ancestral property which the King clan inherited from their indigenous Hawaiian ancestor ( a princess no less who married a white missionary) before the trust deed that gives them ownership expires.
The expiry date is seven years down the line and some of Matts cousins pressure him, as head trustee, to sell asap.
While Matt considers the land deal, he mulls over ( in voice overs ) his failure to be a good spouse (” Wake up Elizabeth, please wake up.
Ialt39m ready to talk. Ialt39m ready to change. Ialt39m ready to be a real father and husband.
Wealt39ll go round the world just the two of us…”) when Elizabeths condition takes a turn for the worse and he brings back Alexandra from boarding school, we are made privy to the extent of their estrangement.
As father and daughter squabble, Matt learns from Alex, a shocker about his neglected wife.
Their shared anger becomes a unifying force, jolting the dysfunctional family ( and Alexs boyfriend) on a journey to find clarity and meaning.
Matt may not have been a good husband and father but he is not a vindictive man. In the end, everyones anger, hurt and sense of betrayal dissolves.
The Descendants is a textured narrative of grief, forgiveness and grace. Co- authored by Payne, the strong script also makes room for irony and humour. Payne extracts superb performances from his cast, especially Woodley and Clooney. Will he get an Oscar?