The Descendants - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Descendants Reviews

Top Critic
David Thomson
The New Republic
June 20, 2013
The Descendants is humane, decent, and close to real quality.
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Dave Calhoun
Time Out
January 24, 2012
Payne is an unobtrusive director, a filmmaker who lets the script do the walking - in this case, perhaps too much.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
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Tom Long
Detroit News
November 23, 2011
One of the year's best films, a bubbly meditation on family and responsibility that weighs just enough to matter.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
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Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
November 22, 2011
In the hands of writer-director Alexander Payne, Clooney has rarely seemed so much at home.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
November 22, 2011
In playing an everyman stranded between anger and duty, Clooney earns an emotional payoff that a lesser actor would simply demand.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic
November 22, 2011
With so many balls in the air the temptation is to rush from one plot strand to another, but Payne takes the opposite approach. He also captures the complexity of emotional reactions that grief stirs.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
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Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
November 22, 2011
It's Clooney and Woodley's movie, as they become a team before our eyes.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Anthony Lane
New Yorker
November 20, 2011
The latest exhibit in Payne's careful dissection of the beached male, which runs from Matthew Broderick's character in "Election" to Jack Nicholson's in "About Schmidt" and Paul Giamatti's in "Sideways."
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Eric D. Snider
Film.com
November 19, 2011
This mature, well-acted dramatic comedy is deeply satisfying, maybe even cathartic.
Full Review | Original Score: B+
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Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
November 18, 2011
A tough, tender, observant, exquisitely nuanced portrait of mixed emotions at their most confounding and profound -- all at play within a deliciously damp, un-touristy Hawaii that's at once lush and lovely to look at.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter
November 18, 2011
A splendid comedy-drama about a father coping with his comatose wife and difficult daughters represents high points for George Clooney and Alexander Payne.
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Liam Lacey
Globe and Mail
November 18, 2011
Payne has always tended to look at society from the perspective of a curious, puzzled alien, but now the alien has grown moist-eyed and affectionate.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
November 18, 2011
[Clooney] is a movie star who can't shake (and doesn't want to, one suspects) the baggage of that good fortune, yet consistently works to blend into the ensemble for the sake of story. The Descendants gives us his most emotional work to date.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
November 17, 2011
It's more straightforward and sentimental than most Payne films, and at times it lands very close to sitcom territory. But it also has scenes as wrenching and as true as any onscreen this year.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Mark Rabinowitz
CNN.com
November 17, 2011
A guaranteed multiple Oscar nominee and the film that cements Alexander Payne as one of the top filmmakers of his generation, The Descendants is nothing short of a masterpiece.
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Chris Vognar
Dallas Morning News
November 17, 2011
Alexander Payne has been gone so long, it's easy to forget just how good he is. With The Descendants, the director's first feature since 2004's Sideways, he reminds us what we've been missing.
Full Review | Original Score: A
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Dana Stevens
Slate
November 17, 2011
It's such a disappointment that The Descendants -- Alexander Payne's first film after a seven-year hiatus following Sideways -- isn't a better movie than it is.
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J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
November 17, 2011
Alexander Payne has won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, but you'd never guess that from this clumsily written drama.
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Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
November 17, 2011
This is a modest marvel of a movie.
Full Review | Original Score: A
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Ty Burr
Boston Globe
November 17, 2011
I can't think of another movie this year that made me laugh or weep harder for the whole lumpy business of being - the compromises and connections that get us through the day and somehow add up to entire lives.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 17, 2011
Payne introduces a circle of friends and family, and shows us the connections, and conflicts, in play. And he makes it all feel lived-in, real.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
November 17, 2011
Clooney offers an assured, multidimensional performance, nailing both the deathbed remorse and the physical comedy.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Peter Howell
Toronto Star
November 17, 2011
This is stealth comedy, richly delivered, and the rising Oscar buzz around it is deserved.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
November 17, 2011
Another beautifully chiseled piece of filmmaking - sharp, funny, generous, and moving - that writes its own rules as much as About Schmidt or Sideways did.
Full Review | Original Score: A
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Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
November 17, 2011
We get vested in the lives of these characters. That's rare in a lot of movies. We come to understand how they think and care about what they decide.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Richard Roeper
Richard Roeper.com
November 16, 2011
"The Descendants" is one of the stranger and yet one of the more effective weepers in recent years.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
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James Berardinelli
ReelViews
November 16, 2011
The Descendants may be director Alexander Payne's finest outing to date.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Rex Reed
New York Observer
November 16, 2011
It's worth seeing for the sharp but uneven human observations in the script and direction by Alexander Payne (Sideways), and sometimes it's fun (but mostly exasperating) watching George Clooney trying to act as he struggles through...
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
November 16, 2011
It's lovely - funny and sad and funny/sad in ways you can't always pinpoint, capturing both the perpetual Pacific island breezes and the unsettled interior lives of Hemmings' characters, chief among them the attorney played by George Clooney.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Joe Neumaier
New York Daily News
November 16, 2011
Payne's observational humor and attention to detail yield something emotionally epic. Everything from beachfront jogs to hospital confessions reveals layers of humanity and absurdity.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
November 16, 2011
Great movies like The Descendants' don't only take an audience on an absorbing journey - in the hands of... Alexander Payne and a superb cast headed by George Clooney, you feel like you've come to know the characters' entire lives in the span of two hours.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
November 16, 2011
"The Descendents" is terrific.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Claudia Puig
USA Today
November 15, 2011
As directed by Alexander Payne, the film moves seamlessly from wry humor to heartbreaking sadness and takes clever deviations from the expected.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Keith Uhlich
Time Out
November 15, 2011
As ever, Payne -- adapting a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings -- walks a fine line between caricature and compassion.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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Betsy Sharkey
Los Angeles Times
November 15, 2011
A tragedy infused with comedy [that] calls for a balancing act from filmmaker and star alike, a tightrope they navigate with nary a wobble.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
November 15, 2011
The Descendants is damn near perfect. Director Alexander Payne is a master of the human comedy and George Clooney has never exposed himself to the camera this openly.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
J. Hoberman
Village Voice
November 15, 2011
It left me cold. The pathos is as unearned as the protagonist's privilege.
Top Critic
Christy Lemire
Associated Press
November 15, 2011
The story keeps you guessing as to where it will go, and it features some piercing moments of emotional truth.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
A.O. Scott
New York Times
November 15, 2011
To call "The Descendants" perfect would be a kind of insult, a betrayal of its commitment to, and celebration of, human imperfection. Its flaws are impossible to distinguish from its pleasures.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Top Critic
Alonso Duralde
TheWrap
November 15, 2011
You think you know exactly how this work-distracted father is going to reconnect with his daughters, and what obligatory moments the movie will provide, but both the script and the stars are too smart for that.
Top Critic
David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
November 14, 2011
Mockery and empathy seesaw, the balance precarious -- and thrillingly so. It's the noblest kind of satire: cruel and yet, in the end, lacking the killing blow.
Top Critic
Glenn Kenny
MSN Movies
November 14, 2011
It works like a charm...to the extent that one's critic self wants to resist the urge to break down why it's working.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
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Richard Corliss
TIME Magazine
September 14, 2011
I'm a notorious softie, and I found things to like about the film, most particularly Clooney's performance; but I remained untouched.
Top Critic
Andrew O'Hehir
Salon.com
September 14, 2011
Begins as a rambling tale about an inept father wrestling with tragedy and gradually builds toward a satisfying emotional payoff.
Top Critic
Noel Murray
AV Club
September 14, 2011
The Hawaiian setting gives The Descendants a distinctive flavor that survives Payne's efforts to bury it in schmalz.
Full Review | Original Score: B
Top Critic
Scott Tobias
AV Club
September 14, 2011
Mostly, The Descendants deals wisely with the complexities of coming to terms with the death of a loved one who leaves a mess behind.
Full Review | Original Score: B
Top Critic
Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
September 9, 2011
After his last feature, Mr. Payne was compared by some to Billy Wilder for his wit, and by others to Jean Renoir for his humanity. After this one I'd compare him to the man who made "Sideways." It's the highest praise I know.
Top Critic
Gayle MacDonald
Globe and Mail
September 8, 2011
Clooney and the elder daughter (Shailene Woodley) give Oscar-worthy performances in this hard-knocks film that will have you laughing one moment and sobbing the next.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Peter Debruge
Variety
September 3, 2011
The Descendants" tackles some of the prickliest issues a contempo family can face with such sensitivity that it's hardly noticeable you're being enlightened while entertained.