• R, 1 hr. 55 min.
  • Drama, Comedy
  • Directed By:
    Alexander Payne
    In Theaters:
    Nov 18, 2011 Limited
    On DVD:
    Mar 13, 2012
  • Fox Searchlight Pictures

Opening

26% The Other Woman Apr 25
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The Descendants Reviews

David Thomson
The New Republic
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The Descendants is humane, decent, and close to real quality.

Full Review Source: The New Republic

June 20, 2013
Dave Calhoun
Time Out
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Payne is an unobtrusive director, a filmmaker who lets the script do the walking - in this case, perhaps too much.

Full Review Source: Time Out | Original Score: 3/5

January 24, 2012
Tom Long
Detroit News
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One of the year's best films, a bubbly meditation on family and responsibility that weighs just enough to matter.

Full Review Source: Detroit News | Original Score: A-

November 23, 2011
Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
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In the hands of writer-director Alexander Payne, Clooney has rarely seemed so much at home.

Full Review Source: Miami Herald | Original Score: 3.5/4

November 22, 2011
Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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In playing an everyman stranded between anger and duty, Clooney earns an emotional payoff that a lesser actor would simply demand.

Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Original Score: 3.5/4

November 22, 2011
Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic
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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 Source: Arizona Republic | Original Score: 5/5

November 22, 2011
Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
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It's Clooney and Woodley's movie, as they become a team before our eyes.

Full Review Source: Seattle Times | Original Score: 4/4

November 22, 2011
Anthony Lane
New Yorker
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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."

Full Review Source: New Yorker

November 20, 2011
Eric D. Snider
Film.com
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This mature, well-acted dramatic comedy is deeply satisfying, maybe even cathartic.

Full Review Source: Film.com | Original Score: B+

November 19, 2011
Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
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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 Source: Washington Post | Original Score: 4/4

November 18, 2011
Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter
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A splendid comedy-drama about a father coping with his comatose wife and difficult daughters represents high points for George Clooney and Alexander Payne.

Full Review Source: Hollywood Reporter

November 18, 2011
Liam Lacey
Globe and Mail
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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 Source: Globe and Mail | Original Score: 3/4

November 18, 2011
Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
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[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 Source: Denver Post | Original Score: 3.5/4

November 18, 2011
Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
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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 Source: San Francisco Chronicle | Original Score: 3/4

November 17, 2011
Mark Rabinowitz
CNN.com
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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.

Full Review Source: CNN.com

November 17, 2011
Chris Vognar
Dallas Morning News
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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 Source: Dallas Morning News | Original Score: A

November 17, 2011
Dana Stevens
Slate
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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.

Full Review Source: Slate

November 17, 2011
J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
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Alexander Payne has won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, but you'd never guess that from this clumsily written drama.

Full Review Source: Chicago Reader

November 17, 2011
Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
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This is a modest marvel of a movie.

Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor | Original Score: A

November 17, 2011
Ty Burr
Boston Globe
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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 Source: Boston Globe | Original Score: 3.5/4

November 17, 2011
Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
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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 Source: Philadelphia Inquirer | Original Score: 4/4

November 17, 2011
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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Clooney offers an assured, multidimensional performance, nailing both the deathbed remorse and the physical comedy.

Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune | Original Score: 3.5/4

November 17, 2011
Peter Howell
Toronto Star
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This is stealth comedy, richly delivered, and the rising Oscar buzz around it is deserved.

Full Review Source: Toronto Star | Original Score: 4/4

November 17, 2011
Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
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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 Source: Entertainment Weekly | Original Score: A

November 17, 2011
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
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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 Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Original Score: 4/4

November 17, 2011
Richard Roeper
Richard Roeper.com
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"The Descendants" is one of the stranger and yet one of the more effective weepers in recent years.

Full Review Source: Richard Roeper.com | Original Score: 3.5/5

November 16, 2011
James Berardinelli
ReelViews
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The Descendants may be director Alexander Payne's finest outing to date.

Full Review Source: ReelViews | Original Score: 3.5/4

November 16, 2011
Rex Reed
New York Observer
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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 Source: New York Observer | Original Score: 2.5/4

November 16, 2011
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
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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 Source: Chicago Tribune | Original Score: 4/4

November 16, 2011
Joe Neumaier
New York Daily News
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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 Source: New York Daily News | Original Score: 4/5

November 16, 2011
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
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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 Source: New York Post | Original Score: 4/4

November 16, 2011
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
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"The Descendents" is terrific.

Full Review Source: Newark Star-Ledger | Original Score: 3.5/4

November 16, 2011
Claudia Puig
USA Today
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As directed by Alexander Payne, the film moves seamlessly from wry humor to heartbreaking sadness and takes clever deviations from the expected.

Full Review Source: USA Today | Original Score: 4/4

November 15, 2011
Keith Uhlich
Time Out New York
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As ever, Payne -- adapting a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings -- walks a fine line between caricature and compassion.

Full Review Source: Time Out New York | Original Score: 4/5

November 15, 2011
Betsy Sharkey
Los Angeles Times
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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 Source: Los Angeles Times | Original Score: 4/5

November 15, 2011
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
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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 Source: Rolling Stone | Original Score: 4/4

November 15, 2011
J. Hoberman
Village Voice
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It left me cold. The pathos is as unearned as the protagonist's privilege.

Full Review Source: Village Voice

November 15, 2011
Christy Lemire
Associated Press
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The story keeps you guessing as to where it will go, and it features some piercing moments of emotional truth.

Full Review Source: Associated Press | Original Score: 3/4

November 15, 2011
A.O. Scott
New York Times
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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 Source: New York Times | Original Score: 5/5

November 15, 2011
Alonso Duralde
The Wrap
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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.

Full Review Source: The Wrap

November 15, 2011
David Edelstein
New York Magazine
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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.

Full Review Source: New York Magazine

November 14, 2011
Glenn Kenny
MSN Movies
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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 Source: MSN Movies | Original Score: 5/5

November 14, 2011
Richard Corliss
TIME Magazine
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I'm a notorious softie, and I found things to like about the film, most particularly Clooney's performance; but I remained untouched.

Full Review Source: TIME Magazine

September 14, 2011
Andrew O'Hehir
Salon.com
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Begins as a rambling tale about an inept father wrestling with tragedy and gradually builds toward a satisfying emotional payoff.

Full Review Source: Salon.com

September 14, 2011
Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
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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.

Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal

September 9, 2011
Gayle MacDonald
Globe and Mail
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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 Source: Globe and Mail | Original Score: 4/4

September 8, 2011
Peter Debruge
Variety
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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.

Full Review Source: Variety

September 3, 2011
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