Film Review of “The Descendants” – Tragedy, Hilarity and Forgiveness in Hawaii

I can’t get the film “The Descendants” off my mind. Of course, as a film-school writing graduate, I’m prone to over-pondering film literary feats. But my admiration for this cinematic gem is more than the musings of a movie nerd.

I’m awed by the clever, tender writing of the film “The Descendants,” especially the witty story’s return again and again to the subtle theme of forgiveness in imperfect action. Patient forgiveness, thoughtful forgiveness, reliable forgiveness. Funny forgiveness. Irrational forgiveness. Conflicted forgiveness. Shouted forgiveness. Excruciatingly painful forgiveness. But never self-righteous or condescending forgiveness.

As the emotionally-clueless workaholic father of two daughters, “The Descendants” star George Clooney replaces his trademark swagger and sexy “Oceans Eleven”-smirk with the raw vulnerability and humble authenticity of a family man slammed, but ultimately not crushed, by the fabric of life.

The genius of this film’s marvelous script is that it elicits side-splitting audience laughter amid tragic events, and finds bittersweet sadness amid delightful comedic moments.

The wonder of “The Descendants” writing is that it inspires film goers to witness the loving and hurting sides of profoundly flawed people. And to feel Clooney’s mannered shock-and-awe and hilarious immaturity as he flounders to “keep his head above water,” as his character jokes.

Films and books often cling stubbornly to our thoughts because in them, we see ourselves. As I look back, I’ve never fully forgiven certain people… a couple family members, a former long-time friend, ex-husband… who caused me heartache and considerable heartburn. This film reminds me that I could certainly make, or have made, a better effort to care about their travails.

An interesting, under-noted aspect of Clooney’s character in “The Descendants” is that while he tenderly forgives imperfect others, he never asks for forgiveness nor seems to grasp that he played a key role in causing pain in his own life or that of others. Thus, despite growing closer to his spirited daughters, the father remains just as flawed as anyone else in this enchanting, thoroughly modern story.

Set entirely in lush Hawaii, and scored with graceful Hawaiian melodies.

Rated R for language, spoken mainly (and quite approrpriately) by the older, teenage daughter.

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3 Responses to Film Review of “The Descendants” – Tragedy, Hilarity and Forgiveness in Hawaii

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