The Descendants

7.31 h 54 min2011X-RayR
HD. Hawaiian lawyer George Clooney deals with grief, fatherhood and real estate in the wake of a tragedy in this Oscar(R)-winning drama.
Alexander Payne
George ClooneyShailene WoodleyBeau Bridges
English [CC]
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]
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Supporting actors
Judy Greer
Alexander PayneTracy BoydJim BurkeGeorge ParraJim Taylor
20th Century Fox
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Alcohol usefoul languagesexual contentsmoking
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4.5 out of 5 stars

4005 global ratings

  1. 75% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 13% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Jennifer KellerReviewed in the United States on June 25, 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
I'm seriously worried that this movie got good reviews.
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How is this movie getting good reviews? It's boring, the behavior from just about everyone is abhorrent, and you keep asking yourself "who cares?" throughout most of it. I finally gave up. I'm not sure which George Clooney movie is worse, this or The Men Who Stare At Goats. I seriously feel like I lost valuable moments of my life watching this. Thankfully, it's a movie offered and not something I paid for. Do not pay for this. In fact, I only recommend watching it if someone is paying YOU to do so. And no matter how much they are paying you, ask them to double it.
43 people found this helpful
Christina ReynoldsReviewed in the United States on January 10, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
A most excellent book-to-film adaptation
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The Descendants is a 2011 American drama film directed by Alexander Payne. The screenplay by Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The film stars George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Beau Bridges, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, and Robert Forste.
Native islander Matt King (George Clooney) lives with his family in Hawaii. Their world shatters when a tragic accident leaves his wife in a coma. Not only must Matt struggle with the stipulation in his wife's will that she be allowed to die with dignity, but he also faces pressure from relatives to sell their family's enormous land trust. Angry and terrified at the same time, Matt tries to be a good father to his young daughters, as they too try to cope with their mother's possible death.

If I was asked to draw a diagram illustrating the speed at which ‘The Descendants’ moves it would look like a horizontal line. This may seem like something worth complaining about, but it goes to show that ‘The Descendants’ knows what it is about at all times. It meditates peacefully and perpetually on the edge of a plateau and refuses to rely on bells and whistles to be engaging for its audience. It neither flies or falls and is instead anchored by a strong sense of stoicism and poise. Additionally, this does well to illustrate the cycle of monotony that Matt wraps himself inside of and successfully portrays him as a person that is easily punctured by calamity and change. Over time this leaves us to wonder if his environment is a product of his insecurities or if they are perhaps the cause of them in the first place.

It is easy to get caught up in the cinematography given that this was shot in Hawaii. To some this is almost a shallow attempt at appeasing audience members that have a soft spot for gorgeous scenery, but its almost distracting nature means something much more in the larger scheme of things. This beauty is ultimately a façade and a perfect representation of Matt’s grotesquely limited worldview. As the plot develops the smoke screen that he hides behind is slowly removed and casually takes us on a journey of self-reflection and heavy-handed reconciliation. Bits and pieces of interactions in which Matt recognizes him as being more like characters he originally wants very little to deal with teaches a very valuable lesson: that the world is much more complicated than the experiences that are most personal (and perhaps even unique) to us.

When comparing this film to the book it is based off of it is fair to say that justice to the source material is served in abundance. The film largely depends on its characters to paint a larger picture and encourages its audience to form their own opinions about Matt’s wife in passing; In contrast to this, the book gives Elizabeth more of a voice through Matt and provides more insight as to why some of her choices were made, and the fact that this isn't replicated on screen isn’t the least bit surprising. I could point the finger and say that this could have been achieved through a series of brief flashbacks, but I also understand how this could have easily caused some well-intended railroading in practice. In addition to this, the book goes into greater detail regarding the thought process behind some of Matt's decisions, and this is again something that can be fairly difficult when translated on screen. At the end of the day both the book and the film are a commendable and colorful illustration of loss, forgiveness, and the gentle reminder to stop taking the small things for granted.

If being perfectly transparent I would say that my rating of this film would be a 3.75, and this is only because I'm not in a hurry to watch it again. The ending overall leave much to be desired but it begs a very important question for those of us that have a passion for analyzing and critiquing films:
why are we, both casual and formal viewers, always asking and demanding for more what is mostly excitement from films? While you are all busy contemplating this thought I will just end by saying - ‘The Descenet’s has an authenticity to it that deserves all of the praise and recognitions awarded to it.

‘The Descendents’ doesn’t act like a kite without handles, but is more like a fishing rod that lays in wait for potential viewers. Some will circle around the bait and see it for what it is, but others will willingly take a bite and risk being hooked. Regardless of whichever of these two options seems like the greater description of you I will just end by saying -
I would more than happily recommend this film.
16 people found this helpful
PatrickReviewed in the United States on March 4, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
I hate this movie with a burning passion
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I gave this movie a shot. I should have honestly shaved a duck's behind because that would have been a better use of my time. This movie had a poor plot, a very poor script, and poor delivery on what should have been a thrilling drama. I have been back and forth the past weeks on writing this but every time I see this recommended I get angry because I know I wasted an hour of my life with this movie and worst yet, gave them 5 dollars to rent this dumpster fire. I would have been better off staring at a wall, I could have at least figured out what bills I had to pay in the current week. Do not waste your time, save yourself!
23 people found this helpful
RebeccaReviewed in the United States on June 21, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
Learn as you go (spoiler-ish)
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I have a strange allergy to anything having to do with George Clooney but with the Oscar buzz I was curious.

I loved it. I loved the process the Clooney character goes through as he learns a lot more about his wife than he wanted to know. I loved some very prickly and honest monologues he delivers at her bedside. And his relationships with his kids. (Teach your parents well...) It's interesting to see the lights in his internal life come on (in relationship to almost everything going on in his life) at the same time his wife's lights are going out.

He was a victim of cliche that you can never truly know someone. He learns his wife's secret and that starts his journey of discovery and in the end he learns about himself.

The movie has warmth and sees it's characters through a very human lens.

No one gets life, love or relationships right. All you can do is calibrate your compass and keep trying.
49 people found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on October 31, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
A story about family reconciliation
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The Descendants is a melancholy tale of family reconciliation as George Clooney’s comatose wife is about to die. He has to raise his youngest daughter Amara Miller and make up with his estranged older one Shailene Woodley. He also has to deal with the problems he had with his wife.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few moments of comedy thrown in there such as when his wife’s dad Robert Forster and later Clooney punches Woodley’s friend Nick Krause for saying inappropriate things. Krause actually turns out to be a good kid.

It might seem that this film is completely depressing and it definitely has some low moments but in the end it’s all about family. The light elements really help and Clooney and Woodley provide two great performances.
7 people found this helpful
William H. CarsonReviewed in the United States on January 17, 2022
1.0 out of 5 stars
Worst comedy I have ever seen!!
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Whoever put this under comedy should have their "sick brain" examined!!! An entire movie about a woman who was cheating on her husband and had an accident and now laying in a coma in the hospital is sure as hell NOT FUNNY!!
13 people found this helpful
MpsalohaReviewed in the United States on October 15, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent screenplay of story by Kaui Hart Hemmings that sensitively ...
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Excellent screenplay of story by Kaui Hart Hemmings that sensitively examines the dynamics of relationships from multiple perspectives: marriage, parenthood, friendships,and broader familial obligations, while also probing the impacts and values of modernization and work, relative to traditional lifestyles and environmental stewardship. The performances are all top notch-- this is one of my favorite performances by Clooney, but all the supporting roles are spot on, with shout-outs to Woodley (older daughter), Krause (daughter's friend), and Bridges (cousin) especially. Alexander Payne's direction, as in Sideways, proceeds at a pace that enlarges the emotional space allowing us to become more involved with the characters. With an exceptional soundtrack (that is an awesome sampling of traditional Hawaiian music), and the beauty of Hawaii as a backdrop, this is worth watching and re-watching (I've seen it about 5 times over the years).
18 people found this helpful
lucymaeReviewed in the United States on June 14, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
A subtle yet powerful film
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Matt King, played by George Clooney, is not that different from a lot of men. He’s a workaholic, successful as a property attorney, and puts duty to the job before family. He has a wife, Elizabeth, played by Patricia Hastie. And 2 daughters, Scottie age 10, played by Amara Miller. And Alexandra age 17, played by Shailene Woodley. He’s never home and leaves the responsibility of home life to his wife. Matt makes the money and Elizabeth takes care of everything else.

Matt differs from a lot of men in that he’s a descendant of Hawaiian royalty, which includes a hefty inheritance of Hawaiian land. The sale of the land over the years has left him and his cousins very well off. He is sole trustee of the family’s last parcel - 25,000 acres of Hawaiian paradise. Because of legal issues with the trust, the land should be sold. The potential buyer of the land plans to turn it into resorts, condos and other commercial endeavors. He and his cousins stand to make a half billion dollars to split amongst them when the sale goes through. The decision to sell is in Matt’s control. Unlike Matt, his cousins have squandered most of their inheritance and are pressuring Matt to close the deal.

He also differs from other men because his life forever changes when his wife ends up in a coma after a boating accident. Suddenly he is facing the reality that he knows nothing about the life she was leading before her accident, and has no clue how to deal with his daughters.

After an incident where Scottie acts inappropriately at her school, he admits he hasn't really taken care of her since she was 3. He describes himself as the back up parent, the understudy. When he finds out that she's been bullying a classmate, he feels it must be out of character for her. But Matt doesn't really know if Scottie is acting up because her mother is seriously ill, or because that is just her personality.

Daughter Alex confounds her father even more, spending too much time with older men, doing drugs and defying authority. When Matt picks her up at boarding school so she can help with Scottie, he is perplexed by how angry she is with her mother. Alex reveals that her anger comes from finding out something about her mother that Elizabeth was trying to keep secret. He later finds out that their mutual friends were also keeping the same secret. He feels betrayed and hurt, but also unprepared at how out of his control his life has become.

His family’s tragedy is a catalyst that sets in motion events and revelations that not only force him to examine his marriage and his relationship with his daughters, but also the sale of the land. It starts him on a journey that helps him redefine what’s important to him.

The power of this movie is in its subtlety achieved with a well-written script and superb acting. It’s complex and thought provoking. It succeeds without relying on sensationalism to keep our interest. Jealousy and anger run high in this film, but nobody is stabbed or shot in a fit of rage. We hear about the accident that leaves Elizabeth comatose, but we don't see it. There are no flashbacks to past events. Real time character interactions and events tell the story. And do so successfully. The lush Hawaiian mountains and greenery, and the native Hawaiian music should have equal billing with the cast. Both are outstanding.

Some of the reviewers feel that the ending doesn’t live up to the quality of the rest of the film. That it’s hastily added on and poorly done. I disagree. It’s a perfect ending to the film.

In her hospital room, Elizabeth is covered with an old yellow and white quilt. It appears about halfway through the film after a visit from her mother and father. At the same time, personal items from her childhood also appear, such as a diploma, pictures of her as a child, and a necklace.

The final scene of the film starts with Scottie at home, on a couch, watching tv and cuddled up under the same quilt that her mother had in the hospital. Then Matt joins her with bowls of ice cream to share, and he covers up under the quilt as well. Alex enters, joins them on the couch under the quilt, and shares in some of the ice cream. As with the rest of the film, it’s subtle, but effective and it brings the film to its conclusion.

The Descendants received considerable critical acclaim. It was nominated for multiple Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for George Clooney. Each would have been well-deserved. It did win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. It also was awarded 2 Golden Globe awards, Best Picture and George Clooney for Best Actor. And rightly so. One of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.
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