Behind the Scenes: ‘The Descendants’

Did The Descendants have you lusting to go off into the gaw-jus Hawaiian sunset with Matt King (George Clooney)? Or at least to want to hang out with him and the kids a little longer?

Fox Searchlight Pictures

What I most liked about this flick was the novelty of watching Clooney play an average human anchored to one place, for a change.

I’m not sure the movie would have gotten as much recognition if someone else had played the part.

Still thought he was a bit wooden, even for a part that called for that. And upstaged at times by the young actress who played his older daughter.

I was more intrigued by the other leading character: Hawaii.

I was there years ago on my way back to the U.S. after living in the Great Barrier Reef for awhile. America’s 50th state is a truck stop in the middle of the Pacific.

Didn’t get a chance to see much beyond Honolulu and a little of Maui. That’s two islands out of eight. What little I saw was crowded and touristy, even then. Maui was pretty. Sort of like the Caribbean with mountains.

Having seen Descendants, it’s clear I didn’t even scratch the surface. The movie offered an intriguing peek at how the locals live. The locals with money, anyway.

The thing that struck me most was that people were wearing jackets. What’s up with that? I never saw so much as a pair of socks when I was there.

A lovely person I know who teaches at the University of Hawaii (where President Obama’s parents met), by way of Virginia explains “It’s chilly in the wintertime, at least for us! And the characters live in Nu’uanu, which can be chilly, as it’s near the top of the mountains above Honolulu.”

Her take on the film? “Kauai [the island where much of the film takes place] is gorgeous. The places in the movie are real … The movie, like the book, does touch on very serious issues … The land issues alone could have taken up several movies.”

Anyway, I wouldn’t mind hanging out in that Tiki bar in the movie — the one that that quirky kid who grows on you — said “rocks.” Actor Beau Bridges, who plays Clooney’s cousin, is said to live part-time on the island and hangs there.

The Descendants/Fox Searchlight Pictures

There’s a tour of Kauai that lets you do just that. Surprise, surprise.

One-hundred bucks buys a stop there, along with movie and TV locales for every age. Pirates of The Caribbean, Jurassic Park, Gilligan’s Island, South Pacific.

Another company will take you around that pristine beach on Kauai that was at the center of The Descendants’ storm.

I see no reason why you can’t do this stuff on your own, but it’s nice to have someone else do all the legwork. Though some tour companies claim some sites are exclusive, I’d do some checking around.

And if you’re DIY, you might want to throw in a dash of Obama’s Hawaii. Sounds great: I could go for a plate lunch and some shave ice right about now. Dunno about the body surfing, though.

Here’s more on the prez’s favorite hangouts.

Plus, everything you always wanted to know about the president’s life, courtesy of tours of Mr. Obama’s neighborhood. Including the Baskin-Robbins where he reportedly got his first job.

And a quiz: What do the president and Clooney’s character have in common? Both are of mixed races, as are many Hawaiians. Though English is the official language, Hawaiian — which has Polynesian roots — is also spoken.

Some advice from my friend if you’re thinking of visiting, or even relocating.

Her favorite places? “The Big Island [Hawaii]. The volcano at night, when red lava is flowing into the sea. Wow, when the earth is younger than you are !”

What would she say to someone thinking of chucking it all for paradise?

“If you think it’s all going to be smooth sailing, forget it. If you’re up for our complicated blend of beauty and occasional ugliness, then come here. If you’re willing to live in a small place (unless you’re rich) and pay a lot for groceries, by all means! If not, stay where you are.”

There you have it. Straight from a kama`aina — a local.

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