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The Descendants

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Alexander Payne

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About the Movie

From Alexander Payne, the creator of the Oscar-winning SIDEWAYS, set in Hawaii, THE DESCENDANTS is a sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic journey for Matt King (George Clooney) an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 249
  • Fresh: 221
  • Rotten: 28
  • Average Rating: 8.1/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: The Descendants is humane, decent, and close to real quality. – David Thomson, The New Republic, Jun 20, 2013

Fresh: One of the year's best films, a bubbly meditation on family and responsibility that weighs just enough to matter. – Tom Long, Detroit News, Nov 23, 2011

Fresh: 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. – Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic, Nov 22, 2011

Fresh: The film plays to Payne's strengths - not just the emotional complexity and the constantly shifting kaleidoscope of moods, but his skill at eliciting in-depth performances from his cast. – Philip Kemp, Sight and Sound, Jul 6, 2018

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews


As a director, Alexander Payne has almost never disappointed. With a filmography that includes intelligent comedy-dramas like "Election", "About Schmidt", and "Sideways", he has proven himself time and time again to be one of the most talented and accomplished directors in the movie industry. And after seven years away from the director's chair, Payne finally returned and presented us with perhaps his most honest and touching production yet, "The Descendants".

Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, the film, set in Hawaii, tracks the tumultuous life of Matt King (George Clooney), an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a devastating injury from a boating accident off the coast of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters, as well as the discovery of a long-concealed secret concerning his wife. All the while, Matt must decide whether or not to sell his family's land, which was handed down from Hawaiian royalty.

George Clooney delivers one of the most genuinely convincing performances of his career as an awkward, yet committed family man faced with having to deal with a number of personal issues. He effortlessly brings a subtle humanistic soulfulness to his simple character, portraying him in a sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic light. Shailene Woodley also does a fantastic job in her debut film role as Alexandra, Matt King's rebellious, estranged teenage daughter. She brilliantly portrays a vulnerable adolescent girl struggling to come to terms with her mother's condition, while also attempting to reconcile her relationship with her father. Supporting actors Beau Bridges and Judy Greer also give some commendable performances. In addition, the screenplay is well executed and the gorgeous landscapes of Hawaii are simply breathtaking.

While there are a lot of great things to say about "The Descendants", it does have its slight flaws. The writing is a little sappy and the dialogue is a bit clichéd at times. But overall, I enjoyed "The Descendants" for what it had to offer. The acting is strong, the story is complex and the emotional depictions of the film's characters are beautifully honest, but not to the point of over-exaggeration. What I really admire about this movie is that it captures the unpredictable messiness of life in a graceful, fluent manner that almost all of us can relate to in some way. Personally, I think it's one of the past year's most authentic, heartfelt and compelling offerings. It may not be a film that everyone will enjoy, but for those who appreciate a well-crafted comedy-drama, it's definitely worth seeing.

A sensation to watch

I thought the heart breaking struggles of a man and his children, going through loss and betrayl, was a fantastic rollercoaster of enjoyment and despair. I rate it five stars, because it deserves it.

Great movie

The writing is incredible and Shailene Woodley is just gorgeous !

The Descendants
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  • $14.99
  • Genre: Drama
  • Released: 2011

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