Wednesday, March 28, 2012
There are times in our lives when our world comes crashing down and we are completely unprepared. Shocked and clueless, we grope around making awkward attempts to deal with the overwhelming situation or to just get by. Like the day my whole life was thrown out of whack when my husband of 23 years announced he wanted a divorce and moved out that afternoon. I did my share of groping to find my footing - not always handling it with the best of grace.
I guess that's why I relate to Alexander Payne's, “The Descendants.” Payne (and Oscar winning co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) aren't afraid to present a flawed main character, Matt King (George Clooney), who is absolutely clueless about how to handle the life shattering situation he finds himself in when his wife ends up in a coma as the result of a boating accident. To add insult to injury, he discovers that she was cheating on him at the time. It's a one-two punch that leaves him stunned and reeling.
Matt lives in Hawaii, in paradise, but has been so caught up in business transactions that he can't take in the beauty around him. His time has been spent negotiating deals with vacation resorts and condos to sell the pristine forest entrusted to him and the other descendants. This piece of land represents all that he has lost in his life. There was a time that he took his family on regular camping trips there. But he has lost his connection with the land and his family. He has become an absentee husband and father. In fact, he is absent from his own life.
Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event to shake us awake after sleep walking through life. (It took my husband leaving me...) Having been JOLTED awake, Matt is ill equipped to deal with the fall out from the accident on his two troubled daughters. George Clooney brings out the humor as his character gropes around trying to make some sense of the whole mess. When he hears that his wife was cheating, Matt, still in shock, charges off in his clumsy flip flops around a ridiculous circular drive – in search of answers, anything... Later, we can see the inner turmoil in his eyes even as his daughter splashes in the ocean and life goes on around him. Once he has dealt with his own issues, he is better equipped to help others cope with the tragedy. Finally fully awake, Matt sees that he is a part of something bigger than himself. He realizes his responsibility to the land, himself, and those around him. Procuring his place in the world puts his problems in perspective.
As for me, I'm grateful to be awake and learning life's lessons.