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LUXURY ON LOCATION: The Descendants (2011)

The film & Book: The Descendants (book by Kaui Hart Hemmings)

The Location: Hawaii

Any film that has the normally dapper George Clooney running around in an Hawaiian shirt (long on the list of souvenirs not to wear at home) is worth seeing. Oh and did we mention the rubber flip-flops? There are however other reasons to watch; the acting, the story and of course the scenery. Alexander Payne's film, The Descendants was filmed on Oahu and Kauai in Hawaii and has the luxurious St. Regis Princeville Resort in a starring role.

Payne is the creator of the Oscar-winning Sideways and The Descendants is adapted from a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Kaui grew up in Hawaii, then left to gain degrees from Colorado College and Sarah Lawrence College. She now lives back in her native Hawaii. All of which explains why the story has such a spirit of place.
 
It is nice to see Hawaii playing itself for a change. Because the islands have been a stand-in for somewhere else in so many movies and TV shows, from Bali Ha'i in 'South Pacific' to Vietnam in 'Tropic Thunder' and a dinosaur infested park in 'Jurassic Park'. As for TV, Gilligan's Island springs to mind.

the descendants

The Descendants is already bringing home gold for Clooney this awards season. At the Golden Globes he won Best Actor - Drama for the role and Best Motion Picture - Drama. The movie tells the story of a  tragi-comedy journey for Matt King (George Clooney) an indifferent husband and father forced to re-examine his past and look to the future when his unfaithful wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a new understanding between Matt and his young daughters as he wrestles with a decision to sell the family's land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. Whatever the family problems the film portrays it certainly gives us a great excuse to gaze on the beauty of Hawaii - why would anyone want to sell off land in this particular portion of paradise? "Paradise? Paradise can go f--- itself? " Matt says in voice-over.

Which sets the tone for the film; this is the REAL Aloha State, complete with angst over property development and the Honolulu traffic jams.
kauikeolani estate
Kauikeolani Estate
"For Hawaii's people, living in a place that's unrelentingly misrepresented in mainstream media as a perennially sunny, welcoming vacation paradise in which locals only get the supporting roles, this small, quiet film will feel profoundly different," writes Honolulu Weekly. "In it, locals of all backgrounds will recognize ourselves, our families, our neighbors, the gritty stuff of our real lives. Not only that, it's the first popular film to see us through an insider's eyes."

And did we mention the Hawaiian shirts? Actually there are a lot of bad shirts in this movie Beau Bridges ,who plays one of Clooney's relatives, sports a particularly groovy little number. Standing side by side with Clooney they wouldn't look out of place in a Waikiki gift shop - you could stick them to your dashboard and watch them hula.

As it happens Beau Bridges actually lives part of the year on Kauai.  He is fond of going to Tahiti Nui ,a real life Hanalei bar that serves as a key backdrop in the film. "All the guys you see in the scene in the background are just local folks who were hanging at the bar," Bridges told  BlogTalkRadio."The Hawaiian band in the scene plays there every Thursday night. Tahiti Nui is a legendary hang."
 
Hawaii still looks beautiful, despite the 'reality' check...

Hawaii still looks beautiful, despite the 'reality' check. The scene where Matt King sees his land for the first time was filmed on the southeast coast of Kauai and as Matt and his two daughters gaze over an idyllic and empty oceanfront valley, it is hard not to want to leap on a plane and fly there immediately. Although in fact this particular piece of paradise is only accessible by boat, Kipu Kai is the real life setting for the land holdings.

Our other favourite scene takes place in one of Kauai's grandest houses. Like Clooney's character King, The Descendants' author Kaui Hart Hemming spent childhood vacations at Kauiokelani, an ancestral estate on Hanalei Bay. The estate's six-bedroom main house is now a $US15,000 a week holiday rental (perfect for The Luxury Travel Bible readers); the nearby three-bedroom, Nalu Beach Cottage ($US5,000 a week) is where King confronts his wife's lover.
 
presidential suite st regis
Presidential Suite, St Regis
Kauikeolani was once the residence of Albert and Emma Wilcox .The original home dates back to 1800s. Today the main house has six bedrooms and six baths, an expansive living room filled with antique furniture and a fantastically wide balcony  which wraps around the home. From the balcony you can look out across manicured lawns to tumbling mountain waterfalls. There is even a nine-hole practise golf course.

The  luxurious St. Regis Princeville Resort also serves as a beautiful backdrop for several scenes so it is no surprise that in conjunction with Fox Searchlight Pictures and United Vacations, the St. Regis Princeville Resort is currently offering a special sweepstake where those who enter have a chance to win hotel accommodation for two for five nights in the Presidential Suite where scenes from the movie were filmed.

What is filmed where. 
Roberts Hawaii, Hawaii Movie Tours, the original Movie Tour started by Bob and Jerri Jasper will take you to a variety of movie locations and it is no surprise they have already added The Descendants to their itinerary. www.hawaiimovietour.com
 
Wailua Falls -Fantasy Island, Dragonfly, Castaway Cowboy and The Amazing Race, Tropic Thunder
Hanamaulu Bay - Donovan's Reef, Pagan Love Song, Six Days, and Seven Nights and Voodoo Island
Opaekaa Falls- Donovan's Reef, Lt. Robin Crusoe, USN, and Seven Women from Hell
Coco Palms- Blue Hawaii, Fantasy Island, She Gods of Shark Reef, Dinocroc vs Supergator, and Pirates of The Caribbean - exclusive entry only to  Hawaii Movie Tours
Kauai Sands Beach - Tropic Thunder
Kapaa Town - Jurassic Park
Aliomanu - Six Days, Seven Nights and Voodoo Island
Moloaa Bay- Gilligan's Island and Castaway Cowboy
Tahiti Nui - George Clooney's, The Descendants (movie opens Dec 2011)
Hanalei Valley- Uncommon Valor
Hanalei Bay - Miss Sadie Thompson
Hanalei Pier- Miss Sadie Thompson, Wackiest Ship In The Army, South Pacific, Beachhead and Acapulco Gold
 
 
 Melissa Thomson 29/11/11, Updated 16/1/12
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