The Descendants - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Descendants Reviews

June 20, 2013
The Descendants is humane, decent, and close to real quality.
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
December 2, 2011
The challenge in describing the film is that it doesn't neatly fit into any pigeonhole. It's a serious movie that happens to have a sense of humor, because Payne and his collaborators see the absurdity in everyday existence.
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-
November 22, 2011
In the hands of writer-director Alexander Payne, Clooney has rarely seemed so much at home.
Read More | Original Score: 3.5/4
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
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
November 22, 2011
It's Clooney and Woodley's movie, as they become a team before our eyes.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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."
November 19, 2011
This mature, well-acted dramatic comedy is deeply satisfying, maybe even cathartic.
Full Review | Original Score: B+
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
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.
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
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.
Read More | Original Score: 3.5/4
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
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.
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
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.
November 17, 2011
Alexander Payne has won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, but you'd never guess that from this clumsily written drama.
November 17, 2011
This is a modest marvel of a movie.
Full Review | Original Score: A
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
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
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
November 17, 2011
This is stealth comedy, richly delivered, and the rising Oscar buzz around it is deserved.
Read More | Original Score: 4/4
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
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
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
November 16, 2011
The Descendants may be director Alexander Payne's finest outing to date.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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
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
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
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
November 16, 2011
"The Descendents" is terrific.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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
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
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
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
November 15, 2011
It left me cold. The pathos is as unearned as the protagonist's privilege.
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
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.
Read More | Original Score: 5/5
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.
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.
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
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.
September 14, 2011
Begins as a rambling tale about an inept father wrestling with tragedy and gradually builds toward a satisfying emotional payoff.
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
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
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.
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
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.