The Descendants

2011

The Descendants

Critics Consensus

Funny, moving, and beautifully acted, The Descendants captures the unpredictable messiness of life with eloquence and uncommon grace.

89%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 256

79%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 69,898
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Movie Info

From Alexander Payne, the creator of the Oscar-winning Sideways, set in Hawaii, The Descendants is a sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic journey for Matt King (George Clooney) an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family's land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. -- (C) Fox Searchlight

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Cast

George Clooney
as Matt King
Shailene Woodley
as Alexandra King
Amara Miller
as Scottie King
Beau Bridges
as Cousin Hugh
Patti Hastie
as Elizabeth King
Robert Forster
as Scott Thorson
Judy Greer
as Julie Speer
Matthew Lillard
as Brian Speer
Grace A. Cruz
as Scottie's Teacher
Kim Gennaula
as School Counselor
Carmen Kaichi
as Lani Higgins
Kaui Hart Hemmings
as Matt's Secretary Noe
Matt Corboy
as Cousin Ralph
Matt Esecson
as Cousin Hal
Michael Ontkean
as Cousin Milo
Stanton Johnston
as Cousin Stan
Jonathan McManus
as Cousin Six
Hugh Foster
as Cousin Wink
Tiare R. Finney
as Cousin Connie
Tom McTigue
as Cousin Dave
Milt [Lewis] Kogan
as Dr. Johnston
Mary Birdsong
as Kai Mitchell
Rob Huebel
as Mark Mitchell
Laird Hamilton
as Troy Cook
Aileen "Boo" Arnold
as Dorm Supervisor
Esther Kang
as Alex's Roommate
Melissa Kim
as Alex's Drunken Friend
Barbara Lee Southern
as Alice "Tutu" Thorson
Zoel Turnbull
as Hotel Clerk
Linda Rose Herman
as Grief Counselor
Scott Michael Morgan
as Barry Thorson
Darryl K. Gonzales
as Tahiti Nui Singer (Kanak Attack)
Koko Kanealii
as Tahiti Nui Singer (Kanak Attack)
Romey "Keola" Yokotake
as Tahiti Nui Singer (Kanak Attack)
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Critic Reviews for The Descendants

All Critics (256) | Top Critics (52) | Fresh (227) | Rotten (29)

Audience Reviews for The Descendants

  • Jun 16, 2016
    Boring and vacuous. Would have been better if the story was not focused on Matt (George Clooney) but an Arrested Development style ensemble examination of the whole family. Shouldn't have won a writing Oscar. Watch for the shots of Hawaii.
    _kelly . Super Reviewer
  • Mar 27, 2016
    A smartly written comedy-drama, The Descendants is both funny and touching in it's dialogue, acting and direction, never afraid to truly show the more uglier parts of humanity in it's truthfulness.
    Matthew M Super Reviewer
  • May 27, 2015
    Clooney is an unlikely lawyer in Hawaii preparing for the deal of the century when his wife goes into a coma through an boating accident. What happens next, presented in a touching family drama kind of way, is the interpersonal family business of burying the dead, warts and all. Not bad, and a depiction of Hawaii not usually seen.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jan 09, 2014
    The following review contains spoilers. Payne is a director that has never connected with me so much as he has done with others, but I do not fail at recognizing his sheer talent at tackling complex emotional subjects with an accuracy that few directors in Hollywood have succeeded at treating given his maturity. <i>The Descendants</i> had multiple risks of falling into a generic and clichéd treatment of an already overused dramatic story about the reconstruction of a family while facing the imminent loss of a close relative, but makes a superb characterization of each member of the King family. The film could also have failed at mixing correctly the drama genre with comedic relief (mostly provided by the character Sid), but Payne smartly presents characters to which we may first build a prejudiced perspective for then letting the characters talk for presenting their emotional backgrounds. In this way, we are first introduced to Alexandra as a foul-mouthed, alcoholic and insensitive daughter, and we meet Sid as a "Dumb & Dumber" kind of character, uttering lines for comedic relief and with an intentionally funny physiognomy, but then we discover that Alexandra is a disappointed teenager with a lack of a male family authority in her life and with no parental figures to support her, and Sid is a kid with exactly the same lack of a father figure that disguises his problems pretending that everything is OK. Despite his emotional insensibility towards Elizabeth's imminent death, he has feelings of authentic human value and found a much needed comfort zone in Matt King's family, the family that he probably doesn't have. Even if distanced from the completely refreshing irreverence of <i>Sideways</i> (Payne's best film yet) and from the complexity of the analysis of <i>About Schmidt</i>, with a plot that offers nothing that is actually daring, <i>The Descendants</i> combines great expertise at shooting wonderful filming locations with solid performances and a mature treatment of topics difficult to deal with. Adding comedy is one of the director's trademarks, and that was a huge risk here, but not in Payne's agenda. Even if the whole subject of selling the family's land comes as a secondary background to show Matt King's successful transformation at valuing his family and the heritage left by his ancestors, a topic that acquires not the same significance that the family reconstruction topic had, the film offers valuable lessons in between. I loved the metaphor of the land suggesting that Matt and his family where the descendants, but also that whatever we do now, our descendants will be always indirectly involved. It is how we decide to transform our family today that will have a permanent butterfly effect for our "descendant" generations to come. Filmwise, it is not about if the story has already been told or not. It is about how you tell it. 73/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer

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