Overall Impression – Subtle and beautiful.  Sneaks up on you like an Hawaiian sunset.


Who’s your main character? – Matt King.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: Manage the sale of his family property. Personal: Hold his family together while his wife is in a coma.  Private: Come to terms with his wife’s adultery.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Cousin Hugh and, to an extent, Brian Speer who is the man Matt’s wife cheated with.

What happens if he fails? – He brings down the wrath of his cousins and he loses his connection with his daughters.


Orphan – Matt’s wife is in a coma following a boating accident, he has an unhealthy relationship with his two daughters.

Wanderer – After Matt discovers that his wife had been having an affair, he takes his daughters on a trip to Kauai to find Brian, the man his wife was having the affair with.

Warrior – Matt finds Brian and sets out to confront him while simultaneously having doubts about selling the family property and making a fortune for himself and his cousins.

Martyr – Matt decides not to sell the land in order to keep the purity of it, even though he will likely be sued by his family.  He also gives permission to Brian to visit his wife who is being taken off of life support.


The Descendants is a movie for grownups, and instead of trying to pulverize the audience with bombastic drama it lures you in and gently leads you into the lives of the characters.

The movie is anchored by George Clooney who brings a sad, schleppy quality to Matt King (even I look better running in flip-flops) but this is part of the craftsmanship.  Clooney makes us forget that he is cut from the same suave fabric of movie stars of yore so you can focus on his journey.  The story pulls you along, and while it will likely never be a monster grossing movie, it’s a wonderful example of how a screenplay can hit all the beats of conventional story structure but make you think it’s anything but conventional.

— Jeffrey Alan Schechter


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