This is the second in a series of reviews of movies either shot in part on Kauai or connected to Kauai.
There are many reasons to like “The Descendants,” starting with:
• Several scenes were filmed on Kauai;
• It shows my favorite restaurant and bar, Tahiti Nui, and the now-famous George Clooney seat;
• Speaking of Clooney, he runs on the beach at Hanalei Bay;
• Clooney also runs in a pair of flip-flops as he charges to confront friends about a family situation;
• Spoiler alert, in the end Clooney rejects a plan for major development on Kauai.
Now there’s much more to this 2011 film starring Clooney, Shailene Woodley and also includes Beau Bridges and some appearances by Kauai’s own Laird Hamilton. It is based on the excellent novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings.
In a nutshell, it’s about a hard-working attorney on Oahu (Matt King played by Clooney) whose wife is in a coma after being injured in a skiing accident, so he must figure out how to relate to his two daughters. He also learns, via his oldest daughter, that his wife was cheating on him. He also learns, via the doctor, his wife will not come out of the coma. He’s also torn on whether his family should sell their land trust on Kauai which would bring in millions, but would change the landscape of this island because it would usher in a major development, bringing with it more people and more traffic (some things never change).
While there are light moments in the film, it’s not a comedy. Clooney’s Matt King character stands out as the conflicted husband, father and the lawyer with final say over a major land trust decision. For someone who obviously has success with looks, money, career, home and family, he’s messed up. His daughters have issues, his wife was going to leave him, his family wants to sell this land and get their money and he is wondering what the future holds. His emotions range from anger to disappointment to despair and of resignation that his life may not be what he wanted, but he has time to set a new course and by the end, you get the sense he will find that course and follow it.
One line early in the movie is telling. I repeat it, sans a profanity at the end:
“My friends think just because we live in Hawaii, we live in paradise. We’re all just out here sipping Mai Tais, shaking our hips and catching waves. Are they insane? Do they think we’re immune to life?”
We are not, but there is a lot to be said for sunshine and beaches and aloha. It is a nice place to call home.
But back to the Descendants. Overall, it’s a solid movie. Not great, but it’s good. It offers some nice looks of Kauai.
They drive by Kealia Beach and the Lihue Airport gets some attention. And there are views of the stunning scenery, particularly a shot of the South Shore (Kipu Ranch, I read somewhere) that shows where the proposed development would go (remember, this is fiction).
And once you watch it, you’ll have to visit Tahiti Nui and sit in the Clooney seat and have a beer and listen to music. You’ll have to run on the beach and you’ll have to peek over the hedges to look at the beachfront home used in the film. Yes, it’s still there (but don’t trespass to get a closer look).
This movie pretty much belongs to Clooney and he delivers a strong, believable performance.
Now, go have that beer at Tahiti Nui and run on the beach.