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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Descendants

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Matt King (George Clooney) is a wealthy landowner in Hawaii. He is the sole trustee of a huge piece of land that he and his extended family inherited from their Hawaiian royal ancestors that intermarried with white settlers. His wife, however, is in a coma, actually brain dead, from a jet ski accident. His eldest daughter, Alex, is 17 and is in an extremely expensive boarding school meant to mend the girl’s wild ways that have developed because of parental neglect. Then there is Scottie, his ten year-old daughter, who is sweet and neglected as well.

Matt must decide about selling the land because Hawaiian law now demands that large holdings must be broken up for development or preserved. Matt’s relatives want to sell to a local developer even though a mainland corporation has offered more money.

Matt is a man caught in the middle who must look in the mirror and decide to open his eyes and take responsibility for his family and the land entrusted to him.

Matt learns some disturbing news about his wife from Alexis that leads to complications with the real estate deal. Alexis insists on bringing along her friend Sid (Nick Krause) as they try to uncover hidden secrets and Matt agrees because she says she will be better behaved with Sid around. Sid provides much of the humor and one of the most touching scenes in the film.

“The Descendants” is meant to be a dramedy, and it’s an okay movie but ultimately unsatisfying. Matt has his two daughters and together they will be all right. Perhaps this ending is more realistic than any other could be. I did not read the 2008 novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, so I don’t know if the film represents the book well. Director Alexander Payne, who gave us the brilliant “Sideways,” does a proficient job here, but with three writers tackling the script, I think something got lost in translation from novel to film.

I have to wonder why George Clooney looks so small in the film; every other male actor is several inches taller and more burly than he is. Perhaps the contrast is to show his vulnerability, but it didn’t work for me. I think Paul Giammati would have been better cast in the role of Matt.

It has a bitterweetness about it, a loss, and something gained. But it lacked soul to me, a sense of continuance,  that special something would continue to grow and blossom, even though Matt says that they will be all right. Maybe they will be.

The younger generation is made up of lonely rich kids; Matt’s generation is made up of middle-aged people waiting around for a financial windfall, and the grandparents are lonely and slowly losing their mental powers.

Is this all life is meant to be? “The Descendents” is a short circuit of a film; it goes in a circle and only hints at breaking out.




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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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