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The Descendants

A 2011 movie directed by Alexander Payne.

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The Descendants

  • Feb 19, 2012
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.

George Clooney stars as Matt King a working father who at his best considers himself second rate. After his wife is injured in a boating accident within the opening sequence of the movie he needs to step up and be something more to his family. All the while he and his cousins hold the fate of some of Hawaii's last bit of land in their hand as they are the direct descendants from Hawaii's last ruling family.

Clooney turns out of his best performances for the troubled father. Think Up in the Air, but that character in the third act. Don't get me wrong he is still playing Clooney in the movie, but with a definite lack of togetherness and cool. He plays the character effortlessly which makes the performance that much more believable and heartbreaking. He allows his character to bumble a little bit, to be awkward, because that is normal people would react. Matt King doesn't have all the right answer or the right moves and often makes mistakes, and that's what makes the character so endearing and relatable.

Clooney plays the part of Matt King perfectly, he allows for the awkward moments to seep into his performance. The movie comes off as a perfect balance between dramatic and funny. The Hawaiian backdrop is wonderful juxtaposition to the mundane and depressing he finds himself in. Not every action gets the perfect reaction; sometimes he comes off as downright cruel when facing stressful moments which anyone can relate to in wishing they could take what they said back.

Alexander Payne, who wrote and directed the movie, loves making characters who find themselves on the brink and who are already broken. He did great work in Election, About Schmidt, and Sideways. It is tough to believe this is his first movie since 2004, but Payne knows his strengths and knows the stories that he wants to tell. His experience with lead characters who are imperfect help to drive the best performance out of Clooney and what makes the movie so relatable.

There is a lot in the movie to feel down about, after all the movie opens with Matt King's wife stuck in a coma. His daughters are difficult girls to deal with, his eldest seems to be dating a complete toolbag and the people around him all seem very selfish. But as some people do, the characters tend to use comedy as a way to cope with their grief and that endears us to some of the softer moments in the movie. We see the character lean on each other for strength and it is when people are thrust into difficult situations that we often see them at their best. The characters become more endearing as the movie progresses.

The best performance besides that of Clooney may come from his eldest daughter played by Shailene Woodley. She plays the part of the spoiled brat so well, but when she needs to be she quickly becomes her father most trusted confidant. She makes the transition believable and that is the most important part of the role, she is able to be hated as the movie starts and seamlessly becomes beloved by the time the credits role. Beau Bridges does a great job as well having his character move in the opposite direction. He plays laid back so well that his callousness sneaks up on you. Every member of the supporting cast does a fantastic job of advancing the story and elevating the lead.

Just as the movie is looking to soften up though and place the audience at ease Payne is quick to hit them again and bring down the whole tone of the movie. The movie has a beautiful reality to it, and makes you feel what the actors are going through is genuine. It is rare to have a movie deal with such a depressing reality and give such a honest reaction that you can still walk out of the movie with a feeling of hope. The Descendants walk that line the whole time and on February 26th may be walking away with the best picture award. 

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February 19, 2012
I missed this when it was released in theaters, but it has to be doing something good since it is still playing because of the Oscars. I may see this, it has gotten some mixed reviews here and I am curious. I looked it up and it seems like the dvd is about to be released too. Thanks for the informative review!
February 19, 2012
I'd be lying if i said i didn't check my watch every so often, but with such a weak year in movies this probably one of the better ones to come out
April 14, 2012
I finally saw this one and I liked it a lot Thanks!
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 . December 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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.                                          &nbs …
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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