Hawaii Month continues with a modern look at island culture, the 2011 Alexander Payne film The Descendants (DVD/Download). Shot on Oahu and Kauai, and starring George Clooney as a man trying to hold his family together, this film leaves you with a sense that you just saw Real Hawaii, and not the postcard version.
Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants weaves a tale about family drama past and present. Matt King is a descendant of Hawaii’s Royal Family, and just as he and his cousins prepare to sell off the last of their ancestral land for major profits, his estranged wife slips into a coma following a boating accident. Through it all, Clooney is a simmering cauldron in Hawaiian shirts, and I spend the movie waiting for him to blow. Nobody does a withering take-down like Clooney, and his skewering of his wife’s lover, played by Matthew Lillard, (*side note: HOW did Matthew Lillard land an Alexander Payne film??) is classic. Also, I’m not sure what to think about a woman who cheats on George Clooney with Matthew Lillard. While I buy a lot of the “real Hawaii” in this film, I don’t buy that.
As we all know by now (or maybe just those of us who read People magazine), George Clooney has gone from Hollywood actor to tequila mogul. He and his BFF Randy Gerber make one hell of a spirit, so I think it’s high time we feature it on Cinema Sips. While watching The Descendants, I recommend drinking an Añejo Old Fashioned*.
Añejo Old Fashioned
3 oz Casamigos Añejo tequila
1/8 oz agave nectar
4-5 dashes Mole bitters (I used Fee Bros. Aztec Chocolate bitters)
Combine liquid ingredients in a glass over ice and stir gently to chill. Strain into a glass with a large ice cube. Run a flame over the peel of an orange to release the oils, and drop into the glass.
*Recipe adapted from the fabulous book, Tequila Cocktails.
While I don’t love this movie as much as Payne’s other films such as Sideways and Election, it definitely grows on me with repeat viewings. I notice the subtlety of Clooney’s performance, and the beautiful way in which the script celebrates old and new Hawaii. So many of the islands’ traditions have been lost in the face of progress, but the bond of family isn’t one of them. In The Descendants, we’re reminded of what ties us to a place, and to each other. Cheers!