I can’t remember seeing a movie trailer for a book and wanting to read the book, enjoying the book and then being dissappointed in the movie but that was the case for The Descendants.
I liked almost everything about the book. The pacing including the ocasional non-linear story telling was very good. It felt like every part of this book was important and nothing was left out even though at the end of the movie – which ends the same way as the book – my wife asks if there’s more. The characters all have the role size that their part of the story would indicate. Matt King narrates us through the process and this was done when possible in the movie and it added something that book to movie evolutions normally lack. But if the book characters were well stylized they failed in the movie.
George Clooney wasn’t as convincing in the movie as I had expected based on the award nominations he had received and Sid, who was a slightly too contrived but enjoyable character in the book, failed to come through in the movie. The rich greens and blues and whites of Hawaii also failed to deliver in the movie.
While reading it I couldn’t believe it was written by Kaui Hemmings, a woman. Her protagonist father Matt King had so many common thoughts that I do as a father it seemed odd that a woman could relate the same way. But she can and she does so wonderfully.
What Hemmings did with the character of Elizabeth, Matt’s wife, who is a coma was also very good. I grew to really dislike her even though only her actions were portrayed through Matt’s memories. She felt so fake and plastic but Matt still loved her. It was like Hemmings definition of love is something that you can’t explain on a page, that even when you tell people about what someone did or what they said, you can’t convince others how you feel about them. You just know something, feel something different and that’s what love is.
The story is slightly different than what many people are used to but not in the Inception or Sixth Sense kind of way. It follows a different path and does so while being happy, sad, and funny. I suspect that’s why a lot of people enjoyed the movie but – as always – you should really read the book.