The Descendants is a brutal movie. I wanted to see it because I enjoyed Sideways which was by the same director. And I was confident that I would enjoy the background setting of the paradise that is Hawai’i. Instead, I got a beautifully brutal movie.
I saw George Clooney interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio, and he took the film out of respect for the director as well as the reversal of roles for him. He has recently portrayed guys that have an easy confidence; which sometimes (Up in the Air, Michael Clayton) slowly designates in the situation around him. In this movie, he starts pretty seriously out of control or even connection with his own life let alone the lives of those around him.
His wife is in the hospital, in a brain-dead coma. They were having problems before the boating accident that brought them there. Their two daughters are amuck, one with later adolescent rebellion and anger, the young just starting pre-pubescent acting out. And, Matt King (played by Clooney) has yet to have ever actually had to take responsibility for his life, yet.
Quickly, Matt has to face three major issues… 1) that his wife had become unfaithful preceding the accident; 2) the time has come to discontinue life support on her; and 3) that he has to determine the outcome of his extended family’s trust of 25,000 acres of undeveloped land – a very precious commodity both to the generations of original Hawaiians (The Descendants)as well as the the limited space for further development on the island.
Implications for Youth Ministry: Parents are not always well equipped to live out the challenges of their own lives let alone be able to simultaneously even begin to handle what’s going on in the lives of their kids. Matt King does not have an extended support system helping him, he’s just following his instincts (right and wrong) and trying to make the best of it. This movie is a brutal reminder (did I say brutal enough times?) to cut a parent a break. Pray for them. Love them. Offer resources for them and help them make connections – You have no idea how their lives might be descending at that moment.