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One of 2011's best
Dan Franzen (dfranzen70)11 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Descendants is not a movie that's easily defined. In the macro view, it's about a man grieving for his wife, who lies in a coma from which she may never emerge, while simultaneously attempting to care for his two rambunctious daughters, each of whom is nearly alien to the workaholic man. But don't hastily dismiss this as a tearjerker about some guy coming to grips with mortality and/or learning a little something about himself along the way. This is a movie that runs the gamut of emotions, with pristine sincerity, grace, dignity, and rich realism.

Matt King (George Clooney) is the workaholic, a lawyer who lives in Hawaii. He has a good life - at least until his thrill-seeking wife suffers a serious head injury during a powerboat race, placing her in a deep coma. Matt's orderly life is no more. He must not only deal with the fact that he may never speak with his wife again, he must also learn an entirely new way of life - one with a domestic tinge. As wife Elizabeth's condition deteriorates, Matt must also deal with family and friends and open doors he never knew existed. All right, that's sort of cryptic, so let me give you this tidbit that is in no way a secret in the plot - Elizabeth, Matt shortly discovers, was having an affair at the time of her accident.

On top of all of that stress and drama, Matt is the sole trustee of a huge plot of land that has been a part of his family for a very, very long time. He and his cousins have decided to field offers for the land, because the trust becomes dissolved in seven short years. Should they sell to the highest bidder or to a local businessman? Either outcome would leave all of them very rich indeed. The sale of the land will make a huge impact on the island, as it could transform what many see as a beautiful, nearly untouched mark of beauty into a symbol of avarice and decadence.

The core of the entire story is Clooney's unbelievably terrific performance; he is vulnerable, strong, confused, decisive, anguished, angry. It's not every actor who can pull off such a wide range of expression, and Clooney is so effective in this movie that you sincerely feel as if you are standing directly in his shoes, seeing all from his perspective rather than just through his eyes. To say that Clooney's Matt is troubled is an understatement, but what makes this performance so remarkable to me is that at no time does he have all of the answers, and at no time does he have no answers at all. He is, to put it another way, us.

The tremendous amount of pressure under which Matt finds himself is exacerbated by his daughters' behavior; partly their reaction to their mother's plight but also because, well, they're precocious and self- absorbed, as most kids are when they're teens or preteens. Add in Matt's cluelessness about how to take care of girls; then you have a real recipe for a wacky sitcom, don't you? Only here it's as real as it gets. First there's 10 year old Scotti (newcomer Amara Miller), who acts out in class - including bringing in pictures of her comatose mother for show and tell. Scotti seems like a girl who just hasn't had enough of a male influence in her short life; you get the impression that Mom was the one who took care of the kids while Dad worked and worked. As a result, Scotti is combining typical rebellious behavior with confusion on how she should feel about her mother's being in a coma. Then there's Alexandra, currently away at boarding school; for her, you get the clear impression that she's a real problem child who's used to being shunted from school to school, like a queen of diamonds in a marked-up deck. She's away when the accident occurs; Matt retrieves her (discovering she's as wild as always) and necessarily leans on her to help him deal with his various problems.

Rest assured, there are moments that will jerk tears from you. However, director Alexander Payne does an amazing job of keeping everything level. This isn't a four-hankie movie, because life isn't a four-hankie movie. Life has its terrible moments and its joyous ones, too, and this film emulates that layer of authenticity to really deliver an emotionally powerful, provocative, and endearing story.

This isn't a movie you can just grab the kids and some popcorn and be lightly entertained, but it's also not a Think Hard movie. It's somewhere in the middle - again, much like life. Payne and cowriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash allow us to become psychologically engaged with everything concerning Matt and his family. We're with him so much that when he makes a blunder, we think to ourselves that we'd probably make the same blunder. It's a pleasure to see a movie in which the protagonist clearly doesn't have all of the answers, even to the easy questions, but has some answers to the hard ones. And that's why this is a hard movie to pigeonhole, and it's also why it's such a beautiful, artful film.
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The Descendants is an outstanding and touching drama
CaptMTS12 December 2011
The Descendants is a tragic and heartfelt family drama set against a backdrop of the sights and sounds of modern Hawaii. The music is wonderful, and the scenery of several Hawaiian islands is amazing.

George Clooney is outstanding as the father of a family torn apart by tragedy. His character deals with unsettling secrets of his dying wife and his broken relationships with his two troubled daughters. Forced to deal with the consequences of neglecting his family, Clooney does a great job capturing conflicting and powerful emotions.

Shailone Woodley does a wonderful job as the rebellious older daughter, who captures the anger and hurt of a teenager betrayed by her mother and abandoned by her father. Her relationship with her father is the heart of the movie, and they slowly learn to rely on each other for support and strength in dealing with the loss of their mother/wife.

The film has a wonderful supporting cast that adds humanity and heart to the tragic story. Nick Krause stands out as the oldest daughter's friend, who adds a touch of laughter and perspective to the film. His open and carefree personality grates on the characters initially but helps them to eventually gain perspective on the tragic events.

Overall, the Descendants was an excellent movie that captures the raw emotions of a family dealing with betrayal, pain, and loss and learning to draw together for love and support.
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Was honestly expecting more
tiger jack14 January 2012
This is a great movie, no doubt about it. But given the combination of golden globe, Oscar buzz and positive feedback on IMDb, I expected much more.

The story and the premise of the movie is perfect. In fact, the tagline caught my attention enormously: "trying to reconnect with daughters." That is exactly the type of movie I like. Instantly, I could tell this was a movie about character development and human connection, usually the type of movies with the greatest potential.

Unfortunately, it was merely decent, but not special. It felt like the movie built up so much potential, but failed to release it at a certain point during the movie. The whole movie, for me, felt too introductory in nature. Not necessarily the plot, because the plot does evolve, but the overall "feel" of the movie felt preliminary to a bigger and more dramatic event which never happened.

It's not easy to explain my feelings towards the movie because the fault wasn't necessarily technical or specific. But it did linger around and distracted my viewing somewhat. I felt like there was still more to explore in both Clooney's character and the character of his daughters. Also, I think this element alone impacted on Clooney's performance. His performance was good, definitely, but again, because I felt like there was more to be explored, naturally, I also felt like his performance could have been added to (but not necessarily improved).

Given the Oscar buzz of this movie, I have to compare it to other movies of a similar nature. And unfortunately, I didn't feel like there was sufficient connection between the characters...although the potential to reach that connection was established, it was not acted upon in my opinion. Unfortunately I have to say there have been better developed "re-establishing connection" movies.

In summary, this is an enjoyable movie, but it is missing some important elements which deteriorates the viewing experience to some extent.
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From a person who's lived through it....
MichaelMontoya251713 February 2012
This movie is one of the best movies I've seen in a while, and that's judging it from what it is. I became a fan of A P after watching Sideways and ended up reading the book before watching the movie. I think the biggest problem people have with this movie is that it's not the typical "HOLLYWOOD" movie that forces "emotion" down our throat nor is it the typical "INDIE" film with shaky cameras, far out one shots and so on. It's simple, a bit plain, and raw. We're presented with characters that may not seem interesting at first look, but when it comes down to it, AP has once again showed us a reflection of ourselves and people we know around us. We're normal. We're not all flashy people with cool lives and have interesting personalities. Some people just ARE and live that way. I recently lost the person who would have been my mother in law. I'm twenty four, and my girlfriend is twenty two, and her little sister is fourteen. My girlfriend has recently taken custody over her sister, and with their father passing away before the little sister was born, I've found myself in a bit of a father role and it's scary and new and very strange at times. I completely related to Clooney's character right away, and could feel the frustration he felt, and the emotions he felt. I think he did well with dealing with them. It felt real to me. In fact, everyone's emotions toward the tragedy the film presents felt very real. I saw those same reactions from sisters, aunties, uncles, grandfathers and grandmothers. Some blamed others while others completely lost it. Some felt mad, while others just cried and broke down. Some were oblivious to the news(like the grand mother in the movie) while others were simply there to comfort(Sid). I really appreciated the entire movie, scenery, and dialogue(and at times lack there of). I really enjoyed the frustration they felt one minute, the humor the next, and the forgetfulness of the tragedy at times. It was like seeing a movie based on what my girlfriend and I were going through, and it felt comforting that someone had captured that so well. Not every tragedy will be filled with a room full of criers. Some might. Not all we be filled with humor and relief. Some will. For us, it was everything. It didn't seem real, and at times, it seemed dull. This movie has a special way of presenting itself in that manner and I really liked it. I'm sure not everyone will like. Either they're use to super hero action movies, horror movies, or stuff like Twilight. Maybe you are into good dramas and indie flicks and for whatever reason you didn't connect with that one. For me, a person who's just lived through it and am discovering to be a dad type to someone I'm still getting to know…it was simple, perfect.

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Emotionally hollow and, even worse, boring
pedestrian023 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was a bust. The premise is simple—unbelievably simple, given the length of the movie: a man's wife goes into a coma as the result of a boating accident and he learns, via one of his daughters, that she was having an affair. There's more to it, of course, but nothing interesting: e.g., Clooney in voice-over tells us he's "the back up parent," so we see a few scenes of him failing at being "Mr. Mom" and a few scenes of him fighting with his eldest daughter. Yet, remarkably, a half-hour into the movie the entire family is getting along so well that they all troop off to a different Hawaiian island in search of the mystery man Mom was having the affair with, with the oldest daughter even playing a lead detective role.

What unfolds is hour upon hour of the family walking on beaches, driving down roads, etc., all of which culminates in a kitchen scene where Clooney confronts the man, played by Matt Lillard, about the affair. Lillard, whose acting has not deepened from his Scooby-Doo days, ensures that the scene has no dramatic impact. Then it's back to the hospital to watch Mom die.

The script is unbelievably flat-footed; its idea of humor is having children shout profanity at each other. (I'm no prude—-but I'm not 12, either.) There's even an odd disconnect to the more "dramatic" scenes. Because we've never seen anyone interact with Mom—she's just a corpse, lying there—we have no way of judging the believability of anyone's reaction to her death. We're simply bludgeoned by the musical score into accepting that any given scene is sad. The movie operates on a simple syllogism: the characters are crying, so you should too.

Still, judging by the audience's reaction, this movie will be a major success. I'm enough of an adult to admit when I'm odd-man-out. At each curse word, the audience roared with laughter; for each tear-jerker scene, the waterworks flowed. The Hawaiian landscape is beautifully shot, and the Hawaiian music is lovely, too. Unfortunately, I didn't pay $9.50 for a travelogue.
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A movie that you do NOT want to end...
bmennen18 November 2011
The director of this movie, Alexander Payne, was the guy who made "Sideways." This is a very different movie in that it focuses on family relationships rather than those between friends and lovers. But, Payne displays--in this touching and very real movie--the same incredible talent for doing two things better than almost every other movie maker (at least as far as I'm concerned): 1) he brings the viewer into the geography and milieu of the time and place in a gritty way that clearly presents the natural beauty of the area without over-romanticizing it and 2) he fits the characters into this environment and achieves a reality for these people that transcends the 2-dimensional characters that populate the multiplexes. You really care about these people.

Another similarity between the characters in "Sideways" and this movie is that the protagonists are, in at least one important way, lost. They both are also honest with themselves.

And thank God Payne did not use an orchestra for the soundtrack that would foreshadow and punctuate the scenes telling us how our emotions should run...I will not tell you what the soundtrack is, other than to say it's perfect.

This is not a comedy though there are a few laugh lines. Clooney will get the Oscar for can he not? He is in every scene, and I cannot imagine him being better. And Shailene Woodley plays his older daughter: just amazing. A beautifully realized character.

I tried carefully here to give nothing away but to encourage you to see this as soon as you can. Brilliant.
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Payne knows exactly what he's doing, and what he's doing is tremendous.
Ryan_MYeah18 January 2012
Alexander Payne hasn't made a film from the director's chair since his incredible Sideways back in 2004. Seven years later, he finally returns, and with The Descendants, he returns with a bang.

Like Sideways, his screenplay (co-written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) nails the tone right on the head. It has to balance out three tricky narratives in the film (Matt King's self-crisis, his comatose wife's affair with another man before her boating accident, and a land deal he's reported to make), and without the proper guidance it needed, along with Payne's own confidant direction, it could have faltered. Thankfully, it balances out heavy themes and complicated emotions in uncommon detail.

The characters in this movie are many, complicated, and sorrowful in their own unique ways. Matt King was a perfect role for George Clooney. He keeps his composure, but we can still see a very heavy, filtered sorrow beneath the surface. Shailene Woodley's character (Woodley, by the way, gives one of the year's best performances) begins with a rebellious, even angry sadness, but we can see her develop over the course of the film, gaining a strong maturity beyond her years. Judy Greer and Robert Forster are each given a few spare scenes, and they make every second of their screen time count.

It really is an emotional ride, even depressing sometimes, but I'm surprised by the occasional review I read where critics say they didn't feel the emotion to be sincere. In my opinion, the emotions of the film never hit a single false note. I don't think just anybody could have made this movie the way it is. This isn't a typical drama, the movie's genre is Payne, and he knows exactly what he's doing.

***1/2 out of ****
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Competent all around, arguably a winning product for 2011
Samiam319 November 2011
I hadn't seen so many elderly folks in a movie theatre, since I saw The King's Speech last year. I suppose there is a bit of irony in considering that a film called the Descendants has an audience of ancestors.

The best thing about the movie however, is that I think it can be appreciated greatly by any adult age group, elder or not. There are laughs to be had and tears to be shed. The film centres around middle aged, Matt King; a Hawaiian land baron attempting to connect with his children with the knowledge that his comatose wife is at death's doorstep, and he knows that she had an affair before her accident. Meanwhile, he is under pressure from his network of cousins to sell his inherited land to the kind of real estate that wants to put up a seaside condo-mania.

In essence, it's a recovery story. The formula is not entirely 'new' yet the somewhat paradoxical balance of refinement and dry humour are enough to elevate this to a very well rounded story. As far as drama comedies go, The Descendants is ideal.

This may be George Clooney's best lead performance to date. I think it is the first role that doesn't require him to be slick or charismatic even for a moment. He is rather scruffy, but more importantly, he is human. Clooney brings range to the role, hitting all the right notes, funny and serious alike.

I like the fact that even though we are on Hawaii (a photographer's paradise) the island doesn't look all that special. It's important that The islands look just as mundane to the audience as it would to the characters who inhabitant it. Most of the time it's cloudy, and low brow, except for the few moments where it is necessary to bring out the sunshine, as we stand on a cliffs edge with the King family overlooking dozens of acres of land which could very soon become merchandise.

Another thing I like about the Descendents (which you don't see often) is an ending that is both happy and sad. Some say that great films are the ones that leave you wanting more. The Descendants did this to me, and it's probably the closest thing to a great film I've seen this year.
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King George's court
M. J Arocena26 November 2011
I love the freedom oozing from Alexander Payne's films. The clarity and simplicity of the idea and its execution. All the answers and unity found under a grieving cloud. George Clooney's Matt King is, quite simply, superb. The humanity of the man mingling with his contradictions. So refreshing to spend time with this immediately recognizable man. I couldn't help but loving him. If it's true that Clooney dominates the film, he is surrounded by compelling characters. His eldest daughter, played by the remarkable Shailene Woodley for instance or her boyfriend, a winning Nick Krause, contribute to make "The Descendants" one of the best films of 2011.
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It feels good but really doesn't say or do anything terribly new or special
secondtake20 March 2012
The Descendants (2011)

Wow, lots of great sharp close-ups of George Clooney. And a wonderful place to set a movie, contemporary Hawaii, not just the surf and nature scene, but the reality, too, of family and people interacting casually.

There's a forced plot here, a do good situation where some precious Hawaiian land is in danger of being developed, and you know almost from the first minute it's mentioned what the outcome will be. There's a second plot, too, which is more intense, having to do with an affair that gets uncovered and Clooney's sense of discovery and retribution for it.

But what is supposed to be the main point of the movie, in terms of emotional intensity at least, is the trickiest and maybe the thinnest: Clooney's wife is in a coma and is set to have her life support unplugged and then shortly die. His two daughters are supposed to be mischief makers of the worst sort (unconvincingly) and the drama of the oncoming death and the affair discovered during the midst of it all makes the father and daughters reconsider each other.

Sounds good but it only goes so far. Which is to say it's not a bad movie at all, just nothing that rises above. The one mention during, say, Academy Awards month was that Clooney's performance was standout. And it was, though not any more than other Clooney performances, restrained and consummately professional the same way Tom Hanks is. Which is often just a hair short of the breathtaking stuff others pull off at their best.

The best part of the movie is probably just the relative accuracy of the local Hawaiian culture, relaxed and appreciative but also caught up in the usual material and family concerns of any other U.S. locale.
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The rare fuse of amazing direction and brilliant performances
DonFishies16 November 2011
It has been quite some time since the Toronto International Film Festival, but I still have trouble coming up with something negative to say about The Descendants. It was a film I was immensely excited to see, and one that I think I just managed to squeak into on the second last day of the festival. I tried to not overhype myself, but with George Clooney teaming up with Alexander Payne, a filmmaker whose last film was made almost a decade ago, I could barely contain myself.

Matt King (Clooney) just found out that his wife is in a coma in the hospital. Matt has always been one to put things off, and has never really found time for his kids. But in this time of need, he finds that he is struggling to identify with older daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and younger daughter Scottie (Amara Miller). When he learns of a stunning secret about his wife, it thrusts him into an adventure alongside his daughters to find out the truth, while also finding himself.

From beginning to end, Payne has crafted an endearing film that is hilarious and devastating, often in the same sequence. This is a more calculated family-related effort than I originally thought it would be (with a bit too much emphasis placed on the extended family and land owning subplot), but it is the driving force of everything that happens on-screen. He never overindulges, and never gets too far ahead of himself. He lets the drama play out just as much as he does the comedy, and always keeps the film moving at a borderline ridiculous pace. This may be an indie, but it speaks more to the mainstream than Sideways ever even tried to. It is a truly spectacular work, and one that proves the worth of a talent that has been gone for far too long.

While he already solidified his leading man status years ago, Clooney quite simply knocks this one out of the park. It is not the typical role we are accustomed to seeing him in, and I think that is what sells it the most. This is a very mature role for Clooney, away from the playboys, the lotharios and the screwballs. He is out of his element, much like the character he is playing, thrust into a situation he never expected in a very adult way. He plays Matt in a very nuanced way, always hovering along the fine line of being a struggling parent and having a full blown emotional breakdown. Clooney has continually proved that he is willing to reinvent himself, and his work here is no different. From the moment he steps on-screen, you are simply enamoured by his presence. We can see the brief twinkle in his eye that suggests he is still the Clooney we all know and adore, but his hardened exterior suggests he is trying to camouflage that fact. I said years ago that Up in the Air was his strongest work. But his work here makes it look positively amateur in comparison.

For all of Clooney's brilliance, it is surprising to note that Woodley almost steals the movie entirely away from him. While she has had quite a lot of experience on television, this is her first real film role and is an immeasurable breakout. The trailer suggests she is a bit of a wild child, but seeing the heartbreak and pain in her face after she finds out what has happened to her mother is enough to make you want to weep uncontrollably. Lucky for her, she gets more than one scene to prove her emotional chops, and she nails each and every one. She holds her own against Clooney, and has just the right amount of charisma and angst to make her character above and beyond believable. Her struggle to find her place and to help her father on this adventure is the emotional crux of the film, and the real driving spirit. She may be extremely younger than Clooney is, but she is an old soul. Their relationship and chemistry is amazing, and should she have been acting against a less capable actor, I doubt she would be anywhere near as powerful as she is.

The supporting cast, made up of Beau Bridges, Judy Greer, Nick Krause, Robert Forster and an almost unrecognizable Matthew Lilliard, are all excellent in their small roles. All of them get some really memorable moments to shine, and help to make Clooney and Woodley's performances even greater. Special mention needs to go to both Patricia Hastie, who is confined to a hospital bed for all but about thirty seconds of her screen-time as Matt's wife Elizabeth, and newcomer Miller as Scottie. She is naive and innocent throughout, never once coming off as that annoying kid you try to forget exists. She has a lot of fun in the role, and strikes a real emotional chord at just the right moments. I can only hope directors continue to use her in the future for roles that are just as good, if not better.

It may have taken me practically two months to write about it, but I still find myself at a loss for words about The Descendants. It is finally rolling out into theatres now, and I cannot wait to see the film again. The cast is amazing, with Clooney coming out swinging. Payne may have taken his time finding a follow-up for Sideways, but what he has returned with is nothing short of amazing. Run, drive, fly – whatever you have to do, just make sure you do not miss it.

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Utterly forgettable In-Flight Fare
marsanobill15 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILER ALERT (It's way at the bottom and MARKED). Clooney is stiff as a plank in this overlong, unsatisfactory drama. The first hint you get is the opening with heavy-handed narration. Narration is always a bad sign. The movie simply PLODS onward from that inauspicious beginning. While the movie does avoid the soap-opera aspects of the story, it betrays its only interesting character. Here's the SPOILER: I'm talking about Syd, the glib, prize-jackass boyfriend of the unstable/semi-druggie older daughter. The dope who thinks granny's Alzheimer's is funny. Everybody grows up a little in this story (except, I guess, the younger daughter, who's a cipher--just there for others to worry about) but the one who grows up most and most unexpectedly is Syd. So much so that in fact, in a late scene at the hospital, where Clooney is being unfairly jumped on, Syd is the FIRST to stand up for him. This character development creeps up on you because a) it's subtle and b) there ain't much else, but it's the stand-out of the film. Apart from that, the script MAKES him important: there's a protracted if unbelievable scene in which Clooney has a late-night 'what would you do in my shoes?' heart-to-heart talk with him alone. Yet after all that the script just dumps him. Not even dumps him--that would require some action of some sort. He's just completely omitted from the climactic scenes, as if he never existed. And so this is an utterly unmemorable movie. Six months from now even its fans will struggle to remember it.
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Boring, poor acting what are the majority seeing here? spoiler warning, but nothing really to spoil
jedshred-130 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Just awful. What a disappointment. Clooney's acting was wooden and forced. I thought maybe the scenery could save this wreck of a film, but most of the scenes were shot during rainstorms. The plot was almost non- existent, not developed to any reasonable extent. I started looking at my watch 45 minutes into the boredom, and welcomed a visit to the bathroom. I just can't believe the rating and the accolades this movie is getting by the admitted majority of commenters here. The scene where Clooney "ran" to confront his neighbor's about concealing his wife's affair was lamentable. Well, I've just about wasted enough time writing ten lines to enable me to get this review posted. Do yourselves a favor, wait for the release on network TV - don't waste a penny on this drivel.
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Turgid, Mawkish, and Riddled with Clichés
herbqedi27 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I cannot believe that the same people who ridicule and dismiss movies I like for being "predictable" praising this less-than-mediocre Hawaii-based soap opera to the skies. Is it because of the movie's philanthropic "cause"? 50 First Dates was a far less predictable and more original Hawaii-based movie than this sorry retread.

I want someone to tell me with a straight face that they didn't know after the movie's first 20 minutes how Clooney would lead the family in resolving the pristine Hawaiian land situation. Or that despite the fact that his children begin the movie as typically uncontrollable hell-raisers with no relationship with their workaholic father that by the end of our road-movie adventure, both daughters would get in line and resolve to be good girls and to help each other. What a surprise.

And filling in the space between this, we learn that the older daughter became more estranged because she confronted her mother over an affair she was having. Learning this, Clooney storms in to the neighbor's house as the classic clichéd cuckolded husband demanding to know with whom his wife is having an affair. As happens only in Hollywood, his emasculated husband of a best friend, comes out and tells him the guy's name. And what a coincidence, when they are about to give up trying to find out what the guy looks like, we pass a realty sign with the guy's name and picture on it! Wow, what do you know about that? Oh yeah, did I mention that Clooney knows that Mom is not ever going to come out of the coma she got into as a result of a boating accident, but that he doesn't have the courage to muster to tell the younger daughter while he's going around breaking the news to half of Oahu? (Did anyone see Grace is gone?) So, now, of course, he is so obsessed with confronting the guy with whom his wife had the affair that he uproots troubled daughter from school and throws all his all-consuming work to the side while he takes the family off to the big island for an impromptu holiday - all the time not telling the younger daughter why he's there.

I keep hearing how this is such a different part for Clooney. I don't see this character that different from his character in Up In The Air. His acting is fine, but not the drastic departure that critics are trying to make it. The actresses playing the girls are somewhat adequate but their quick transformation from self-centered and obsessive hell-raisers to sweet troupers doing what they can to support Daddy seems unrealistic and seamless. Robert Forster as the dead wife's arrogant father and Beau Bridges as one of the senior cousins are both wonderfully poignant in their small supporting roles. The young actor playing the older daughter's friend Sid who winds up being part of all these adventures is wonderfully refreshing and offbeat and might be the most interesting character in the movie. That would be a movie that would be much better than this predictably maudlin mess which would have been more suitable for Lifetime than to be a major motion picture being considered for Academy Awards.
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Certainly one of the year's best
tmp9382819 January 2012
My only regret about this movie is that it took me this long to see it. The Descendants, is one of those films that fully succeeds at what it is trying to accomplish. George Clooney fully engulfs himself into the character of Matt King, and his emotional range sways from moments of pure pleasure to those of betrayal and discomfort. Clooney's spectacular and award winning performance is only outdone by Alexander Payne's ability to portray a beautiful slice of heaven in Hawaii while at the same time breaking the viewers heart with devastating character developments and scenes that will undoubtedly have an emotionally conscious viewer on the verge of tears. Even the brief supporting roles of Beau Bridges, Matthew Lilliard, and Judy Greer feel so real and intense that at times it felt like I wasn't watching a film at all, but rather the lives of several individuals in some of their most vulnerable moments. To put it simply, Clooney gives a knockout performance and the Descendants is surely one the most outstanding films of the year. If I had to choose one, this would have to be my choice for the Best Picture of 2011. A+
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formulaic, run of the mill crap
Trudy Jones20 July 2012
I guess someone thought it to be a good idea to latch on the Clooney's far more entertaining project 'Up in the Air' and copy the whole enchilada onto a different story and cash in. Well, it's not going to work.

The story is completely unconvincing and feels designed by computer software. Much like your every day-time soap, if those things are still running. I wouldn't know really since I tossed my TV out of my house years ago. The performances feel like the plastic used to wrap microwave dinners and that is exactly what this film amounts to. A cheap, run of the mill pathos seeking ordeal that will leave you scratching your cranium as to why people are so incredibly undemanding when it comes to this type of entertainment, given its current rating.

I really don't know what to say else. The banality and obvious shortcomings of the movie kinda stumps me as I try to think of more ways to describe its rather obvious inferiority.

It should speak for itself, but apparently doesn't.
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Feel bad movie of the holidays!
royce-939-61431411 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This movie should be sued for false advertising! They are selling it as a warm and fuzzy feel good comedy. It is not. There are a few (very few) funny moments.

The trailers do not show the mom in a boating accident going into a coma and everyone having to deal with the outcome. It is made harder when it quickly shows she was not a saint.

This is a depressing movie that moves at a very slow pace. There are a couple side plots. One of which has Clooney's character being the head of a trust that holds many acres of prime Hawaiian land that is in the family and must soon be sold making all the family members very rich. Does he sell out to the rich tourists or keep the land pure and unused?
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Lacking in may departments
t-kay4414 December 2011
It is disappointing that this film has received such high ratings. After all, this is what drew me to go out and see it myself. Don't get me wrong, there is definitely an audience who would appreciate this film. In my opinion, however, it definitely lacks any kind of spark that would lead my to recommend it to anyone.

Even with Handsome George and Elegant Shailene, there is not enough of a plot or surprise or action to keep one satisfied. I considered leaving after an hour in and regret not doing so.

I can't even recommend this movie to someone who enjoys a feel-good, old-fashioned and polite kind of film because some of the language used by the cast is quite brash and offensive.

Save your money, and your time unless you're having trouble sleeping.

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Don't waste your time
levinga3 December 2011
Don't recall seeing a movie as bad as this one. Plot does not go anywhere and acting is pathetic. We kept checking the time to see how long is left of this nightmare. I really really don't understand what people saw in this. Some things I didn't like: shallow conversations, predictable plot, the whole story could have been told in 30 minutes instead of 2 hours, unending fill-ins with Hawaiian music and scenery. Also disappointed with George Clooney - he has not helped his career or legacy by playing in this disaster. If you want to see "Descendants" because it's by the director of "Sideways", this movie is in a different league, and not in a good way. Conclusion: don't waste your time and money.
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His wife is dying so he must find her lover?
Book815 December 2011
So my wife is in a death coma and my teenage daughter tells me she is a tramp or a fool or both. Now it becomes my mission in life to find my wife's lover so that he can say,"goodbye"? Oh ya, and my daughter tags along on my mission.

Am I missing something or are these very rich and entitled people …insane? I left this movie feeling like I had been poisoned. It is astounding to me that this "plot" could make it to the screen. The only chance this movie had with me was when the neighbor boy finally brings the pain of his life to Mr. King …and King completely drops the ball. If it is not about him, he isn't interested. This is a very sick movie for a very depressed nation.

I honestly felt sorry for Shailene Woodley and I wish her all the best. I hope your next role will be about people that reside on the planet earth and not some cloud koo koo land.
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Bemused by an awful film
Gary Hargreaves29 January 2012
I feel like the little boy who shouted to the crowd "the emperor has no clothes!" This film was tedious in the extreme, pointless in its storyline and bereft of any real emotional content. I found myself thinking at the end "so what?" I found nothing about the characters either likable or interesting and indeed for me every single performance bar one was utterly one dimensional. Cloony was boring and the younger cast simply flat and dissatisfying. The only exception to that was Elizabeth King, the one in bed. It must be a bad year for films if this is up for getting awards. It left me with the feeling that you get when you eat one of those meals that just does not agree with you and sits on your stomach like a lead weight. This film was a lead weight from start to finish and I left the cinema untouched, unmoved and unrewarded by the entire experience. Am I really the only one in the crowd that saw this film for what it was? trite and abysmal?
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George Clooney ego boost
MkDee30 January 2012
I was really disappointed by this movie. It won a Golden Globe and is nominated for an Oscar so I thought it would at least be entertaining. It's unbelievable plot seems like it was created solely to make George Clooney look like a good person.

This movie also takes the beautiful place and culture of Hawaii and make it seem depressing and dreary. While leaving the viewer feeling sad and dirty. One of the worst movies I've seen in a while.

I think the aim was to create an emotional movie, but it falls short. Instead you are left with George Clooney's voice trying to say witty things about life and Hawaiian culture.
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A Nutshell Review: The Descendants
DICK STEEL24 January 2012
Newly minted Best Picture (Drama) at this year's Golden Globes, along with George Clooney being awarded the Best Actor (Drama) award, The Descendants is Alexander Payne's latest film since Sideways, based upon the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Dealing with the central character of Matt King (Clooney) as the trustee of his extended family's trust of thousands of acres of untouched land on the island of Kaua'i, Hawaii, Clooney puts in a commanding performance that deals with one man's plight on many fronts, from his children, his wife, his relatives and having to make tough decisions that will affect the lives of his kindred.

As with Payne's films, the challenges that stand in the protagonist's way are what make the film highly engaging, and Clooney drops his film star demeanour to play the everyday man who faces issues that aren't too far fetched, discovering that his now comatose wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) has been cheating on him, and trying to reconnect with estranged daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) and 10 year old Scottie (Amara Miller) since he's a dad who's seldom at home and seen. And as if matters of the family cannot get anymore complicated, here comes the extended family of cousins and just about everyone related to the King real estate who have to decide, ultimately by Matt himself, how to best sell off their inherited land in order to maximize their profits, with a deadline to boot.

With the multiple narrative threads dealing at a microscopic emotional level - trying hard to come to terms with a cheating spouse where you know you've drawn the shortest possible end of the stick given the state of the other half, and having a teenage daughter who doesn't quite understand you, they provide that grounding to make it easy to identify with Matt King the man who's really quite down on his luck on family matters. The plot threads expand to his near obsession to want to discover with whom his wife has been cheating with, and to bear the brunt of an incessantly sarcastic father-in-law who doesn't take her daughter's comatose state all too kindly.

But it's not all doom, gloom and filled with negative emotions here, as the film does have its fair share of lighter moments courtesy of characters like Alexandra's insensitive loud mouthed friend Sid (Nick Krause) who comes along for the road trip of sorts, though almost always punctuated with that tinge of inevitable sadness in the air. Moments of poetic justice also makes you want to whoop for joy, although you tend to weigh in on these moments and make you think - would you want to maximize benefits for those in your family, or for selfish reasons choose not to remotely reward someone who had done you a great wrong. Such is the tussle and wrangle Matt has to deal with, and makes The Descendants one really topsy- turvy emotional ride, which on one hand one wants to appear magnanimous, while on the other having to suppress the urge to just punch out.

And Clooney deserves his award for making Matt King so believable, junking his glamorous self for something far more affable at first, before the problems start to pile, each with a deadline of its own, and wondering when he would crack under undue pressure, emotionally and physically. Sharing perfect daughter-father relationship chemistry with Clooney is Shailene Woodley who in my opinion is an up and coming young actress to look out for, showcasing a wide range of emotions here, and a scene which I thought brought out her best when her character got broken the news of her mom's condition.

Alexander Payne crafts a meaningful, dramatic film that questions whether we should let the truth be always told, or to allow whatever the version it is in to pass, and to seek to forgive others even when we're wronged. And he deftly handles once again a protagonist who is put in a dilemma with monumental tasks to tackle, although you know they'd somehow converge together toward the end given the web of relationships that exists. Primed to be a firm contender for Best Picture come Oscar season soon, I'm quite certain this is a winner in its own way and doesn't need a golden statue to reaffirm that. Highly recommended!
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Family tragedy in Hawaii
TheLittleSongbird20 February 2018
With the promising cast, an interesting subject matter, the substantial awards attention, the critical acclaim and being familiar with and highly appreciating much of Alexander Payne's work (especially 'Sideways', his recent film 'Downsizing' is an exeption), interest in seeing 'The Descendants' was high.

On the most part, after finally seeing it, 'The Descendants' delivers. It's not perfect and it doesn't quite make it in my list of my favourite films of 2011. It's not Payne's best or my favourite of his, as indicated already that's 'Sideways' while also loving 'About Schmidt' and 'Election'. Its many good points however are outstanding and far outweigh the issues, making it a very good film and almost (but not quite) great one. Considering though that it had all the ingredients to be great, that it wasn't quite gave a slight air of disappointment.

'The Descendants' may not say much new or deep, for a film with heavy and complicated themes this will disappoint some, part of me thought in places things could have gone into more detail.

A few parts came over as being too convenient in occurrence and resolution. Perhaps there could have been less narration, which actually isn't that irritating or over-used but the film would have worked without it.

However, 'The Descendants' is gorgeously shot, making the most of and clearly loving the picturesque Hawaiian locations and landscapes that makes one want to book a holiday there immediately. The use of traditional Hawaiian music on the soundtrack gave the film authenticity and added a lot to the mood of the story, especially in the more melancholic elements that are enhanced by it. Payne directs with his usual wit and warmth.

Payne's script is a large part of 'The Descendants' success. There is a lot of poignant pathos that does give enough depth to the melancholic element of the story, but it is balanced beautifully with a sincere honesty, thoughtfulness, glowing warmth and humorous comic elements.

Admittedly the story is deliberate and it's not the most insightful or breaking-new-ground there is, but the sympathetic tackling of the heavy and complicated personal themes really strikes an emotional chord and the warmth and gentle tone make it interesting. The characters are written well and the father and daughter relationship has a lot of heart and one of the film's biggest strengths.

George Clooney gives one of his finest performances in a challenging role that he brings a lot of layers to. The performance of Shailene Woodley is similarly among the year's best yet criminally overlooked, a very heartfelt, engaging and beyond her years turn. The rest of the cast are just as affecting (particularly Judy Greer and Beau Bridges), while there's welcome levity from Nick Krause, as one of the more rounded supporting characters, and a surprisingly good Matthew Lillard (was expecting him to jar seeing as he tends to play goofballs yet here in a less likeable role in a gentle drama).

Overall, very good and could have been great with just a few tweaks. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Hawaii shows well Warning: Spoilers
But this bomb of a movie fails in every other category.

Inadvertently I've watched it twice. And once was too much.

George, whom I greatly admire as an actor, sleepwalks his way through his role as a dad with a dying wife and focuses all his attention, and his teenage daughter's, on finding and confronting his dying wife's lover. As she is dying.

Side story is a huge lot of land he holds in trust for a bunch of cousins who want to sell it off and make millions.

Most of the characters are ultra-privileged spoiled dislikeables who desperately need to grow up.

I couldn't invest a whit of emotion in any of them and the death scene left me cold.

And the land disposal? Out of the blue. No character development whatsoever.

2 out of 10. I'm still wondering what the fuss was about.
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