The Descendants - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Descendants Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ January 13, 2012
A predictable pseudo-indie drama lazily written by someone who seems to have no clue about real people's lives. It is constructed around many artificial conflicts and embarrassing moments of humor, centered on a group of pathetic characters that are hard to care about.
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.
Super Reviewer
½ August 10, 2011
I don't expect too high for Alexander Payne's movies because even though a lot of people love his work, especially the critics, but he clearly wasn't one of my favorite.. But what I saw for after 2 hours are a masterpiece from Payne with an outstanding performance from George Clooney and a show stealer performance from Shailene Woodley.. The story is light, kinda boring a little, but it's stunning me..
Super Reviewer
½ June 4, 2011
I honestly don't know how he does it. This is the 4th out of 5 films directed by Alexander Payne that I've seen, and he once again knocks it out of the park.

And, like his other films, it's a blend of humor and sadness, though I think this one might be the least funny, and the most emotionally stirring. It's rather depressing, but it's also quite real, which is what I love and hate about his films, since they can be really hard to watch at times, yet they are films that are must-sees.

The story here revolves around Matt King, a disillusioned workaholic lawyer in Hawaii who is forced to re-examine his life after his wife becomes comatose following a boating accident. Even before the accident he already had a lot on his plate: work consumes him, and, even more pressing, he has been wrestling with the decision to sell his family's land which had been handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. That, and as he puts it, "I was the understudy parent", so his relations with his 10 and 17 year-old daughters isn't exactly wonderful.

Like I said, despite the heavy plot, which is one heck of an emotional roller coaster, there are some wonderfully funny and wry moments, and some really finely observed moments in general. That, and Payne has one tremendous cast to work with. Clooney takes the lead and really sells the complexities of the situations that Matt finds himself dealing with. Amara Miller and especially Shailene Woodley are wonderful as his daughters, and I feel like this film will be to Woodley what Winter's Bone was for Jennifer Lawrence. And we can't forget the great supproting roles from familiar faces like Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, and Matthew Lillard, who surprisingly really nails a more dramatic role. I was amazed by his work. Nick Krause is also by far the primary comic relief here, though he also pulls off a really profound and poignant scene with Clooney, that, even though I kinda expected it, was still great when it happened.

When the end credits began to roll, I was stunned. I really wasn't sure I had felt about this movie, as it was a lot to take in. I was initially thinking that I would give it somewhere between a 4 and 5, but was honestly unsure about what it really deserved. Well, I slept on it, gave it some more thought, and, even though I gave this same grade to two other Payne films, it gets a 4.5 from me. I feel okay about this, but at the same time, I have a lingering thought in my mind that, while Payne's films do deserve this type of praise, I think I might be falling into that rut where, like other directors, I find it almost impossible to get too negative or grant that low of a score. I hope I'm wrong though, and that Alexander Payne really is one of the greatest directors of his time, and of all time.
Super Reviewer
½ February 11, 2012
A masterpiece. A film that has such a real and intense punch but still manages to bring your spirits up. One of the years best and most extraordinary movies. An absolute gem of a film that is deeply moving, dramatic and often funny. A mature, well-acted dramatic comedy that is deeply satisfying and well-character developed. It`s heartfelt, tender, compelling and wonderfully entertaining. Director, Alexander Payne crafts an humorous and tragic story that surpasses most of his past work. The characters and story are wonderful and real. A powerful and unforgettable movie. A breathtaking and astonishing piece of work that has your attention all the way to the end. George Clooney is magnificent, he gives one of the greatest performances of his career, and certainly his best performance to date. Clooeny is a movie star with no signs of slowing down, his gives great depth, humor and emotional vulnerability to his character. Shailene Woodley gives a great and confident performance. Star, Clooney and Director, Payne are a match made in movie heaven. I absolutely loved this movie
Super Reviewer
½ September 3, 2011
This family drama is set in the tropical paradise of Hawaii, while playing up the fact that living in a beautiful place doesn't settle your qualms. A family of four is rocked by the injuring of their mother in a speedboat accident while out with friends. Her sudden lack of awareness makes it difficult for her husband, her rebel of a daughter, and her even younger and impressionable daughter. The main character is Matt King, an entrusted Hawaiian descendant of the original royal family of the islands, about to parcel off a huge amount of untouched land to a large resort at the behest of all his cousins and other relatives. The film follows King (Clooney) in a deadpanned performance as a grieving husband, who is maddened at revelations concerning just how misguided their parenting was, and the true nature of their dysfunctional marriage. Their children are played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller, who both give extraordinarily deep performances as a rebellious and misunderstood teenage girl, and a lovable and yet misguided little girl, who is trying to get through her mother's coma and subsequent death. Clooney is quite stoic and yet is constantly being thrown into situations where his faith in his marriage are tested, he starts wondering whether his lineage means he deserves his land or the sale of it, and wonders whether his parenting will be enough once the day comes when his wife will no longer be with them. It's a film that centers mostly on loss in the way of death, but also a broken marriage, raising your children to love their heritage but also respect you even when you're flawed, and the indignities of respecting the dead while also not forgiving them. A beautifully written, directed, and acted film that truly shows loss in all forms.
Super Reviewer
November 28, 2012
unpredictable mess of life.
Super Reviewer
November 19, 2011
A simultaneously depressing and uplifting comedy-drama centered on the emotional traumas of family issues and heartbreak, "The Descendents" features some rather killer performances... including a completely de-glamorized George Clooney in a bravura performance.
Super Reviewer
October 14, 2012
?My friends on the mainland think just because I live in Hawaii, I live in paradise, like a permanent vacation. We're all just out here, sipping Mai Tais, shaking our hips, catching waves. Are they insane? Do they think we are immune to life? How can they possibly think our families are less screwed up, our cancers less fatal, our heartache less painful??

This quote tells you what you?re in for ? it comes at the very beginning of the film, and, as much as I loath voiceovers ? well, when you?ve got writing like this, got for it!

Once again Director/ writer Alexander Payne has come up with a witty ode to the everyman, taking a flawed human being (like who isn?t?) and making him, foibles and all, almost heroic. Of course having the likes of George Clooney as your lead doesn?t hurt. In this film Clooney and the script mesh like a well oiled machine ? the pace and tempo of the film seem to fit Clooney to a T (and I always wondered what that meant).

Here the film manages to have that slowed down, island kind of time to it, and yet instead of being bored, Payne somehow makes us feel invested in the slow unraveling of the story ? just when you think the film is teetering on cliché, it says something new and poignant, as the plot twists away from where you thought it was going to go.

The central theme of the story winds its way around a tragic accident and shows how an event can and should give each of us time to ponder important things like mortality, life and love. Here we see how pain and anger can make a person lash out ? spewing venom when they are unable to say that they are hurting. I found so much of this film to be so very honest, and even when the film veers slightly into plot convenience, it is never really for long, and there are always truths to tell just around the next cinematic bend.

The acting on display here is solid, down to the very minor characters; each does what is required, hitting the right notes and moving out of the way to let the words (and often lack thereof ? another nice bit of directing ? knowing when to shut the hell up) say what needs to be said.

The film isn?t perfect ? there?s too much of a travelog sentiment for one thing ? but if you can give that a pass then this film holds much to admire and enjoy.
Super Reviewer
½ October 24, 2011
Mildly enjoyable. I expected better, I think. Definitely not what I thought would be a Best Picture nominee. I do have to say that the depiction of the dieing mother in the hospital was extremely accurate. I work closely with critical patients, and they handled that perfectly. Kudos for that...otherwise, though, I wouldn't tell anyone to hurry and see this movie...
Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2012
Terrific acting with a good work by Payne, The Descendants present an interesting life of Hawaii population, that doesn't show the 'paradise' on earth. No so great like everyone says, this film is just, a good film to watch. Not so unforgettable like others pictures of the writer/drector.
Super Reviewer
½ March 4, 2012
A well written drama of a father finding his way back home under amazingly difficult circumstances. i have seen better performances of George Clooney, nevertheless his participation makes this film great.
Super Reviewer
February 17, 2012
A lot more serious than I expected - really a sad story. George Clooney is really good here (well, it was a shocker to me, I never normally like him at all). He plays a man who's wife has had a serious boat accident and is in a coma. The movie shows him dealing with his grief and also discovering a secret about his wife which complicates things further. Also his relationship with his two daughters.
Not a feel good movie, but I liked it a lot.
Super Reviewer
November 27, 2011
Another Alexander Payne title for my Books to Read pile... though I wasn't a big Election fan, you have to admit, he's one of the more successful of late when it comes to adapting contemporary literary fiction for the screen (see: About Schmidt, Sideways).

This time around, we get a story about a soon-to-be-widowed man (George Clooney), his distant children, his large, eccentric family and their legacy: a giant parcel of untapped land in Hawaii. As our hero and his reluctant daughter embark on the mission to face the family's past - and reclaim any chance it might have at a future - we come to care greatly for these characters, and to root for them as they learn which choices are the right ones, not just for themselves, but for others around them.

The film isn't without its frustrations, however; I thought Clooney's performance was horribly over-blown, and that he didn't really have enough to do in order to earn an Oscar nomination. I also found the Hawaiian music really grating as the film went on, and though this was the point in one scene, the effect by the end was a negative one. Surprisingly good supporting players include Matthew Lillard and Judy Greer, though, and Shailene Woodley's performance is a breakout. Enjoyable, well-made movie.
Tired of Previews
Super Reviewer
November 23, 2011
Directed (and co-written) by Alexander Payne, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2011. Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Beau Bridges and Robert Forster.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Question: Can you feel sympathy for a character that neglected or ignored his family but then suddenly has to pay attention when thrust back into the responsibility of being a parent? Honestly, you have to answer that one for yourself. For me, I could not. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know but will give you my thoughts on film; and I will let you decide on your own after you see it.

I went to my first movie theatre screener last night with The Descendants. Since the end of the movie, I have been mulling this story over trying to figure out if I liked it or not. There is a lot of buzz about this movie, specifically about George Clooney and Alexander Payne (who last came out with Sideways, which I loved), so I was really looking forward to this film. However, something fell short for me with the story and its main character.

The movie started out with panoramic views of Hawaii (some beautiful and some not-so) with Matt King (George Clooney) giving his first narrated monologue. Usually narration kind of annoys me or I think it's overused today but know sometimes it is necessary and beneficial in certain films. For The Descendants it was actually a perfect fit. In fact, the opening narration struck a chord with me. Pay close attention to what he says about living in paradise. From that point I was really enjoying the film and attentive of all introductions of characters and story-lines but somewhere along the way the film sort of lost me.

I suppose I should back up a little. A brief (very) synopsis of the film. Matt King is a father, husband and lawyer who is the trustee of a large parcel of land in Hawaii that has been in his family's possession for over a 100 years. He is quite wealthy but doesn't spend his inheritance and works all the time for his law practice while pretty much ignoring or neglecting his immediate family. A tragic accident happens to his wife, who ends up in a coma, and things start to unravel for him.

All of the above is revealed within the first 15 minutes of the movie; and you meet a distraught man who has no idea how to cope with the sudden responsibility of taking care of his daughters. He even reveals "I'm the back-up parent." When I first heard that line in the previews, I thought he and his wife were either separated or divorced. So when I found out differently I had difficulty sympathizing with this character, and in certain scenes it made it even harder to see his plight. Pay attention to his first "talk" with his wife in the hospital. That made me retreat as a spectator and become very cautious, but I waited for some sort of redemption for his character after that.

That is all I will say about that because I feel I have gone against my norm and revealed a little too much.

So let me focus on other details for now: George Clooney did an excellent job portraying a man in crisis. He may be one of a handful of actors that can just sit there, silently, but still reveal so much emotion and depth. Don't believe me? Well, watch Michael Clayton, an excellent film, but the last 5 minutes of it proves George Clooney's talent of silent acting. He was brilliant.

In The Descendants you will see him use that gift again and again. I won't be surprised if he is nominated for many awards for this role. However, I just never developed much sympathy for his character despite what he went through during the movie. Perhaps I just saw his character's arc differently than most, because after the "talk" with his wife and then later there was a scene he shares with the young fellow, who is friends with his daughter, just left me cold. It is all about perception, I suppose. You all may see something different.

Alexander Payne has created other characters that maybe many don't care for or find a kinship with; but somewhere over the course of the movie you understand them, feel for the character or the character redeems themselves in a pure, honest way. However, in The Descendants, he did not win me over with the main character. Many may disagree with me but that is how I saw it.

Sorry, this may not be the typical movie review for me or that I may have just changed your mind on seeing the movie. Many reviewers saw the opposite from me; and George Clooney did perform beautifully, so I am not saying don't see it. Just keep an open mind.

My favorite part: Perhaps I forgot to mention that it is quite funny at parts. I did giggle.

My least favorite part: Realizing what it takes for some people to fully understand that their neglect really affects others.

Rating: R
Length: 115 minutes

Review: 6 out of 10

Based on the novel by the same name: The Descendants: A Novel (Random House Movie Tie-In Books)
Super Reviewer
½ December 1, 2011
Deeply absorbing family drama, beautifully directed by Alexander Payne. This film scored pretty big at the Golden Globes this year and is also nominated for 5 Oscars, including Best Motion Picture and Best Achievement in Directing. What I think is most deserved though, is all the nominations and wins going to its leading man, George Clooney. He excels beyond words (if not the best performance of his entire career), as an abscent father who suddenly is thrown into a maelstrom of emotions, when his wife is hospitalized after a horrible accident. Faced with some tough decitions and two highly distressed daughters, he is pressed to become the responsible parent that his business priorities had previously neglected. Stories of this format are not exactly new, but it's in the details and exquisite acting that this movie goes beyond the norm. It's a little too slow for me to call it great, however I do still consider it one of last year's better dramas. Clooney's narration alone was like reading a really good novel, and it certainly has the soul and drive to be compared to a real page-turner. A meaningful and gripping experience, with superb photography to match. Well worth the view!
Super Reviewer
November 3, 2011
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Patricia Hastie, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Robert Forster, Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel

Director: Alexander Payne

Summary: When a tragic boating accident leaves his wife on life support, an affluent land baron attempts to mend his relationship with his estranged daughters. But he's also trying to decide whether to let go of some valuable family real estate.

My Thoughts: "It's really a sad depressing story. It's the most honest portrayal George Clooney has ever given in any film. I think this is one of the better films I have seen him in. I was really impressed with Shailene Woodley. This is the first time I've seen her acting, and I thought she was amazing at showing her characters emotions. She made me tear up. But you really feel for Matt King as well. To be grieving for this person and then to find out that they have betrayed you and there is no way of confronting them or getting an explaination of why has to make that much harder. Great acting all around and a great story. I'd love to read the book now after seeing this."
Super Reviewer
½ November 7, 2011
I loved it...
Super Reviewer
April 13, 2012
Matt King: On the phone he can escape, in person, he's got nowhere to go. I wanna see his face. 

I think I can finally, definitively say that The Descendants was my absolute favorite movie of 2011. Without seeing The Artist yet, I just can't see me loving it more than this. Not only is The Descendants my favorite movie of 2011, but it's one of the best movies I've seen in recent years. It's amazing on every level. 

There isn't one thing I didn't absolutely enjoy about this movie. I liked every character, every piece of the story and how the different pieces eventually fit together, and I loved the mixture of serious drama and genuinely funny comedy. This is one of those films where everything works perfectly. Payne puts a few different stories into the film and connects them perfectly. There's the fact that Matt King's wife is in a coma and is going to die. Then he finds out she was having an affair. All this is going on while he's deciding whether to sell the family land in Hawaii. The way it comes together is absolutely brilliant. There is no other way to describe it accurately. The Descendants is beautifully made, and at times is quite moving. 

When an actor of Clooney's caliber has a performance that is being called the performance of his career, you have to be excited about it. Still, I wasn't really expecting what I saw. I've seen so many Clooney movies, where he is exceptional; that it was hard to believe this one could be his best. Well, he was amazing in ways that can't be described. He gives such a powerful and multileveled performance. He's great in the comedic situations and in the dramatic one, and times he does a good job balancing both at the same time. 

This is a masterpiece and a must see film. How good it is, is hard to describe exactly. Just watch it and you will understand. 
Super Reviewer
½ April 3, 2012
I guess it's only about George Clooney performing, yes he was so brilliant in the movie, but for the role I think all matt's reacts wasn't making any sense, stupid character.
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