The Descendants Debuts in Hawaii
Hollywood loves Hawaii. The love affair began in a different era of travel, when a journey to Hawaii took days instead of hours--when celebrities may have had a private cabin on a boat. They certainly didn’t arrive in Hawaii aboard a private jet. But Hawaiian Love
and The Shark God
, two “one-reelers,” in move parlance, set off a chain reaction when they screened way back in 1913. (Can you believe that? Imagine.) Since then, hundreds of Hollywood films have been made in Hawaii, from Hawaii (Big) Island to Kauai.
And the stars practically lined up to get their tickets for Hawaii. Bela Lugosi. Robert Young. Jimmy Durante. Claudette Colbert. Shirley Temple. Bing Crosby. Betty Grable. Esther Williams. John Wayne. Rita Hayworth. Humphrey Bogart. Jane Russell. Henry Fonda. Jack Lemmon. Jack Cagney. Tony Curtis. Robert Wagner. Rita Moreno. Boris Karloff. Robert Mitchum. Rock Hudson. Spencer Tracy. Mitzi Gaynor. Frank Sinatra. Elvis Presley. Charlton Heston. Kirk Douglas. Julie Andrews. Dick Van Dyke. Billy Dee Williams. Lloyd Bridges. Jason Robards. Duston Hoffman. Steve McQueen. James Garner. Sally Struthers. Jessica Langue. Jeff Bridges. George C. Scott. Nick Nolte. Burt Reynolds. Paul Newman. Martin Sheen. Kathleen Turner. Gene Hackman. Debra Winger. Danny DeVito. Billy Crystal. Tom Hanks. Meg Ryan. Danny Glover. Patrick Swayze. Keanu Reaves. Julia Roberts. James Caan. Sarah Jessica Parker. Nicholas Cage. Sharon Stone. William Baldwin. Laura Dern. Jeff Goldblum. Elijah Wood. Johnny Depp. Morgan Freeman. Kevin Costner. Jeanne Tripplehorn. Jim Belushi. Halle Berry. Bill Paxton. Anne Heche. Ben Affleck. Christian Slater. Tea Leoni. Mark Wahlberg. Pierce Brosnan. Bruce Willis. Cameron Diaz. Drew Barrymore. Lucy Liu. Christopher Walken. Jennifer Aniston. Ben Stiller. Debra Messing. Adam Sandler. Samuel L. Jackson. Tim Allen. Matt Dillon. Owen Wilson. Kate Hudson. Orlando Bloom. Keira Knightley. Robert Downey, Jr. Jack Black. Helen Hunt. Dennis Quaid. Nicole Kidman. Penelope Cruise.
And, now, George Clooney.
Just to name a few.
This past weekend, the Hawaii International Film Festival wrapped with the Hawaii premiere of The Descendants, an adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings novel of the same name. It stars the “sexiest man alive,” George Clooney and opens nationwide on November 23rd.
My co-worker—one of the City Girls
—is a loyal volunteer of the festival--manning doors, organizing volunteer schedules, directing traffic and whatnot. She stretches the tape measure at 4’ 8” tall, when not in sky-high heels. (That’s just something to keep in mind, as you read the rest.)
Tickets for the screening of The Descendant
s sold out shortly after they went on sale a month or so ago. My friend—in the know—scored one of these screeching hot tickets and promptly removed herself from the volunteer schedule for that night. Did I mention she’s a sharp one, my friend? The next day, I emailed her, wanting a full recap of the evening. She dutifully complied, however, she will remain nameless just in case any “big, burly, security guards” wake up from their slumber and take offense. (Keep reading. You’ll see.)
Let me first qualify my comments with the following:
1. I was unbelievably exhausted from crowd control not moments before the introductions began. (Let's not talk about the 6'5" 250+lbs security guards who stood around inside the theater, not outside and not doing anything, not even screening for barred cameras like they were hired to do by Fox. By the way, 95% of the volunteer staff on hand to deal with the 1,000 people intent on doing “whatevs” stood under 5'5".)
2. My sister was one of the first 100-150 "regular" people to get into the theater and the best seats she could get were in the first 3 rows. (Let's not talk about the yelling matches between volunteer staff and movie patrons about saving blocks--and in some cases entire rows--of seats for friends who were still outside the theater or still in their cars on their way, or the 50 or so ticket holders who could not find seats as a result.)
3. George Clooney was "there"... as a big cutout you could take pictures with inside the theater.
4. Movie parents were there en masse. See #2 above.
All that aside, now that the drama of the movie is over:
I enjoyed The Descendants for the blend of heartbreak, unexpected betrayal, and strained family relations with quiet, introspective moments, quick laughs, and an open-ended resolution. The movie's pace could have been a little faster mid-way through. It would have been nice to swap out a song or two for another local artist. I know the movie follows the book pretty well -- Kaui Hart Hemmings was in da house. Still, I felt it glossed over the mother's condition and the pending property sale a little too much.
George Clooney's performance was understated and unfamiliar, but in a good way. He's the hurt spouse with little control over his daughters and a gaggle of cousins angling for a payout. Is it his best? For me, nothing tops him in O Brother Where Art Thou. Clooney’s memorable scenes in The Descendants were with Sid and Alex. They were funny and slice-of-life yet moving and deep at the right moments. Shailene Woodley, who played Alex, embraces the character and really holds her own in the movie. Brava!
The cinematography used on Kauai seemed muddled with muted colors for sunnier days and rainy, overcast days. I thought the views of the family's land and of the ocean were a bit grainy, almost like home movie footage from the 90s but not quite. It was a touch of nostalgia, I suppose, but destination videos playing on hotel TVs are more vivid and enticing. Certain panoramic shots could have been more striking visually – deeper greens, lighter blues in some areas – but, those scenes were really about shared past experiences and memories relived. There's rich history in Hawaii and, if there's a price to be named, it's that we can't afford to forget it or dishonor it. Perhaps that's the point.