The Reel Deal with Missy & Molly ‘The Descendants’: Should Clooney ascend the Oscar stage?

Missy Katner

Lumen Assistant Editor

&

Molly Grosskreutz

A&E Editor

Alexander Payne’s “The Descen­dants” examines the trials of real estate lawyer Matt King (George Clooney) and his connections to both his family and the lush Hawai­ian land. Following a tragic boat­ing accident, Matt’s wife, Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie), is in a life-threat­ening coma, leaving Matt to care for his two troublemaking daughters. Meanwhile, he is pressured to sell his family’s highly desirable vir­gin land to commercial developers.Surrounded by Hawaii’s immense beauty, Matt must deal with issues that are far from paradise.

MG: I liked this movie. It was smart, provocative, and real.

MK: I want to high five this movie. Lately, films like “War Horse” and “Mission: Impossible 4” put me into a Hollywood-ified coma. This mov­ie’s brutal honesty roused me.

MG: At first, I was skeptical of how Clooney could pass as a native Ha­waiian with several centuries of family history, but I thought the film explained his lineage quite well. I bought it. Plus, it’s ironic that his last name is “King,” because in a way, he is one.

MK: To me, Clooney is flawless as the substitute parent suddenly thrown into the starting position. His char­acter Matt—clueless, authoritative, stingy, protective—somehow man­ages to capture the essence of being a father. The movie has dark themes such as death, drugs, and adultery. But Clooney’s goofiness keeps the movie from venturing into depress­ing territory.

MG: For me, the most compelling thing about this film was the extreme contrast between the setting and the plot. As Matt explains during the opening credits, Hawaii is too of­ten referred to as a paradise where nothing bad ever happens, when in fact the people who live there face the same problems as everyone else on the mainland. The tragedy that befalls Matt’s family seems too dark for such a cheery, vibrant place, and sometimes the beautiful scenery seems to mock their suffering.

MK: I loved the unmasked portray­al of the islands. It shows a slightly lame, slightly grungy culture behind the tourism—wrinkled Hawaiian shirts, dirty pools, constant sound of worn-out flip flops. Near the end of the movie, there is a shot of virgin beach land, a reminder of Hawaii’s true, uncommercialized beauty.

MG: Who knew that the young woman who plays Matt’s eldest daughter Alexandra, Shailene Woodley (“Secret Life of an Ameri­can Teenager”) could actually act? Woodley did an excellent job por­traying the too-smart-for-her-own-britches teenager.

MK: I was astounded that Wood­ley pulled off the troubled teenage daughter routine. Usually I wish that character would inexplicably fall off a cliff—so kudos to her. At times, Alexandra shows maturity for her age and loyalty to her so-called distant father.

MG: Speaking of Alexandra, I want to especially commend Woodley for the scene in which her father tells her about her mother’s worsening condition. Freshly retrieved from boarding school, she is swimming in the neglected pool when Matt tells her her mother will not ever wake up. Instead of crying above water, she sobs in silence underwater, a scene that was visceral and memo­rable because of its resonating si­lence.

MK: Of course the other scene that stands out is the flip flop running scene from every promotional pre­view. Love that moment.

MG: So impractical, but realistic! I would do the same thing. Let’s not forget Sid (Nick Krause), Alexan­dra’s friend who accompanies Matt and family during every outing, to Matt’s dismay. Sid provides comic relief, leavening out the drama with his surfer attitude and less-than-stellar wits. However, I think his dramatic backstory is unnecessary and doesn’t further the plot in any way.

MK: Yes, I kind of wanted to tell him to buzz off. He cramps the family’s style.

MG: Is this film Oscar-worthy? It is nominated for Best Picture, and Clooney is up for Best Actor. Per­sonally, I don’t think the film war­rants either of these, but I still found it to be a marvelous example of orig­inality and good storytelling.

MK: Just for kicks, I’m going to say Clooney gets the Oscar. This movie is smart and entertaining. It would have my vote.

Final Verdict:

MG: Thumbs up.

MK: Thumbs way up.

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