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The Descendants

A 2011 movie directed by Alexander Payne.

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Life In Paradise Is Just As Hard As Life Anywhere Else

  • Dec 17, 2011
That's the first thing Matt King (George Clooney) wants you to get into your head. King is a real estate lawyer that just happens to be the trustee of his family's 25 pristine Kaui estate who is about to go through a valley of hardship. Spoilers included below.
The movie opens with a shot of his wife on a speedboat with a huge smile on her face and the look of pure happiness. The next time you see her, death looks like it's thiiiiisclose to approaching her front door, she's in a fatal coma. Matt is sitting there and letting you know that this has been his life thus far- lots of work, little work on his marriage but, he begs her to wake up, promising to make it work. This is before....

Before the doctors tell him that there's no hope, his wife won't be waking up and it is described in her will that she doesn't want to live as a vegetable. He has to sign a waiver to pull the plug and then, the doc tells him that he'll have to tell everyone near and dear in their lives that they should say their goodbyes within the next few days because there's no telling how long she'll live without machine assistance.
Before he gets his 17 year old daughter, Alex (played incredibly well by Shailene Woodley who gets an impressive and much deserved second billing below Clooney) out of school to help him take care of his youngest daughter, Scottie (also played impressively by Amara Miller) who has started to act out. He finds Alex wasted and telling him to tell good ol' Mom to pretty much eff off. He carries her back home to Oahu.

Before this 17 year old daughter tells him that he really has no clue before telling him that good ol' Mom was cheating on him and planning on asking for a divorce to run away with a married realtor (played surprisingly well by the typically comedic actor Matthew Lillard).
Before he has to deal with his father-in-law blaming him for his daughter's death and pretty much sticking it to him, calling him a work-obsessed weak man. You get to know the extent of this abusive relationship and Matt has to sit there and listen to what an angel his wife was, what a devoted wife and mother she was and you want to yell at the guy to stick up for poor Matt.

Before he follows the realtor around Kauai with his daughters and Alex's boyfriend, Sid, to check him out, to see what he's about but, mostly to tell him that the wife is dying and let him know which hospital she's at so he can say goodbye. That's not necessarily what I'd want to do, so if you weren't rooting for Matt, you would after that- what a nice guy. But, he decides to confront the realtor and it turns out the realtor never loved his wife, what an a-hole!
Before he decides to give up millions of dollars in profit for his cousins because they were going to sell to the a-hole's brother-in-law and make the a-hole filthy rich and keep the land himself. I was glad to hear that because it is just SO beautiful and you think, man oh man, if I was lucky enough to have all that, there's no WAY I'd sell especially if it's going to make an a-hole a millionaire.

Before his life spins incredibly out of control and at the same time, teaches him what he was missing in his life. Before your tears can shed down your face or you have to fight them back as you get to witness such a vulnerable part of someone's life. Before you sit in awe wondering how he could've held it all together so well and if you would have the same strength. Before you can leave the theater, maybe a little more pensive or depressed than before but, definitely not sorry that you paid to see this film.

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December 22, 2011
Movies such as this one make you think about living life fully while you have it.
December 23, 2011
December 22, 2011
Life is never what it seems, isn't it? ;-)
December 23, 2011
Exactly and that's why we have to make the most of what we have ;p
December 18, 2011
man...I am so bummed that I missed this one. I was interested in this, but I was distracted when it came out and it was close to it may be too late because more movies are coming out to make the Oscar nominations... :( Nice review! That closing paragraph is killer!
December 18, 2011
Thanks so much, Woo- that means a lot coming from you! My dad dragged me to it the other day and I had forgotten what it was about until this lady outside said, George Clooney and then, I was like....ohhhhh....yeah I kinda want to see that. It's great but, it'll be just as good on TV!
April 14, 2012
finally saw it and I liked it a lot!
April 17, 2012
Yay! My mom saw it and said she thought it was contrite. But, I disagree since I really liked it. On a side note, I saw Drive and thought it was a little odd but, good. Just not what I expected...
More The Descendants (2011 movie) reviews
review by . September 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Director Alexander Payne has previously directed movies such as the cult classic Electionn starring Reese Witherspoon, which I own, About Schmidt starring Jack Nicholson, and Sideways starring Paul Giamatti, nominated for five Oscars winning one.    Gregory Peck once said it's hard to make a good man look interesting.    You can probably imagine in a cinematic world peopled with antiheroes, flawed heroes, or unrealistic superheroes, how refreshing it might …
review by . February 08, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Say YES to Hawaii
This is a movie about family, trust, betrayal and acceptance. And, it is one that's based in Hawaii.   So, for less than $10, one gets to see Hawaii and George Clooney. That's a bargain, I think! ;-)      The descendants is not a feel-good film. It is one that despite being filmed in the paradise island of Hawaii (and actually got me seriously thinking about settling down here one fine day!) it focuses on major theme of a person's life (same for most of …
review by . September 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Paradise offers no king immunity from care
Director Alexander Payne has previously directed movies such as the cult classic Electionn starring Reese Witherspoon, which I own, About Schmidt starring Jack Nicholson, and Sideways starring Paul Giamatti, nominated for five Oscars winning one.      Gregory Peck once said it's hard to make a good man look interesting.      You can probably imagine in a cinematic world peopled with antiheroes, flawed heroes, or unrealistic superheroes, how refreshing …
review by . February 19, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
After winning the Golden Globe for Best DramaThe Descendants have to be one of the front runners to walk away with Best Picture along with several other awards in the big night. If The Artist represents everything that is happy and good, than The Descendants may be the exact opposite. The difference in tone may decide which film walks away with the statuette. The Descendants is both funny and devastating and captures the moments in life we fear the most with eloquence.   …
Quick Tip by . April 14, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
      Pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this movie. It channels the right themes, right application of dialogue and the performances were good in a way that fit its premise. I am not a George Clooney fan, but even I have to admit that he did well in this movie. Could be his best outing since “The American” and “Up in the Air”.      The direction by Alexander Payne kept focused on the things that could’ve been; it is a story …
review by . April 22, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Somber look at a dysfunctional family
When Matt King’s (George Clooney) wife goes into a coma, he realizes how distant he was from her and from his two daughters. Then he learns his wife was cheating on him.      George Clooney plays against type as a clueless father and husband with baggy eyes and a beaten-down face. He slouches through the story and generally looks pretty ordinary. He’s good in the role, but not good enough to save the movie. My first problem with it is the constant profanity used by …
review by . November 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'The Descendants' 'Two Jews On Film' Can't Feel The Heart In Clooney's Latest Family Dramedy (Video)
      When 'The Descendants' directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways) started, I really expected to love it.  I mean, the film is set in Hawaii, there's a woman in a coma, and it stars George Clooney.      Unfortunately, I had quite a different experience.  I didn't hate this film, but I did find my mind wandering...thinking about my overweight dog who needs to go on a diet...Definitely not a good sign.      …
review by . February 03, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Matt King's (George Clooney) wife Elizabeth has been in a coma in the hospital for almost four weeks. She was involved in a boating accident. Also, Matt, one of several descendants of a Hawaiian princess, is the sole trustee of a family trust that controls over 25,000 acres of untouched land on the island of Kaua'i. Matt must decide for his family what is to be done with the land. At the same time, he's given the news that his wife will never recover and she has a living will, so all …
review by . September 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A Great Inheritance
THE DESCENDANTS Written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash Directed by Alexander Payne Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Judy Greer   Matt King: I’m the back-up parent, the understudy.   It has been seven years since Alexander Payne’s last feature film, SIDEWAYS, charmed critics and audiences alike. The long gestation period has allowed him to make  what I would describe as his most satisfying film to date, THE DESCENDANTS. Considering how much …
review by . November 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         The Descendants, adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, shows that people can always surprise us, no matter how well we think we know them. It tells the story Matt King (George Clooney), who may live in Hawaii but doesn’t live in paradise. His wife, Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie), lies in a coma in a Honolulu hospital following a boating accident; only after finding out that she will never reawaken, only after deciding to take her off …
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About this movie



Director: Alexander Payne
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Release Date: 23 November 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon
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"A Great Inheritance"
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