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The Descendants

A 2011 movie directed by Alexander Payne.

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Some Great Performances, But Not Much Else

  • Feb 3, 2012
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 the machines will soon be unplugged and she will slowly die. So, Matt has to contact his in-laws and all of his wife's friends and notify them of his wife's impending death so that they can say farewell. In addition, Matt is getting used to raising his daughters, 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and 17-year-old Alex (Shailene Woodley) by himself. In the midst of all of this, Matt learns that his wife was having an affair for the past two years and decides to find Elizabeth's lover and inform him that she's dying so he can say farewell. Thus begins a mini-journey with his children (and a tag-a-long friend of his daughter, Alex) that brings his family closer together.

The film has some really beautiful scenic shots, but when you're filming in Hawaii, that's not too difficult. The movie also features the finest performance of George Clooney's career. Even though Clooney has starred in lots of tv and film, he's best known for his good looks and comic ability (see O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU) and hasn't had many opportunities to display his range as an actor. THE DESCENDANTS gives him plenty of opportunities. It's his best role to date.

THE DESCENDANTS also features the breakout performance of Shailene Woodley. Woodley is a young actress who hasn't had much exposure but THE DESCENDANTS will be her springboard to stardom. She displays the depth of emotion of a person who has lived several lifetimes.

Beyond the fine acting, THE DESCENDANTS really doesn't offer much. Directed and co-written by Alexander Payne, the film has been nominated for and won all kinds of awards and has been listed on numerous critic's "Best Of 2011" lists. I think the main reason for this is because this is an Alexander Payne movie. Make no mistake, Payne is a talented director. I loved ELECTION and SIDEWAYS and even though I find ABOUT SCHMIDT incredibly depressing, it's also fascinating. However, THE DESCENDANTS lacks the life and personality that make those movies so interesting. There are a few really funny scenes in the movie (I don't know why, but watching Clooney run is hilarious), but there's nothing outstanding hilarious. Close to a third of the movie is told in voice-over from King. I don't have an issue with voice-over, but you can't overuse it and it has to be done correctly. THE DESCENDANTS abuses the voice-over. Also, the movie has way too many close-up shots. I realize that it's done for affect, but like the voice-over abuse, the close-up is used way too much in the movie. However, even putting these technical abuses aside, THE DESCENDANTS isn't good movie because it's really not that interesting of a story. The audience is glad to see how things turn out in the end, but it's almost an afterthought. I was looking forward to seeing THE DESCENDANTS, but much like the way I felt after seeing THE SOCIAL NETWORK in 2010 my reaction at the end of the movie was, "That's it?"

There's some great acting in THE DESCENDANTS, but overall the movie is a tale, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

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February 03, 2012
I almost went to see this one when I went to the cinemas, but something tells me that I should just wait for the dvd. Sounds like this is the kind of film that its performances are its strong points.
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.   …
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 . August 24, 2012
Great job with blending the Hawaiian culture and people into this story about a father trying to connect with his daughters after his wife is gravely injured in a boating accident. Like with Sideways, this is a quest movie that not only carries the audience on this journey, but also shows beautiful scenery of the location the story is set.
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 . 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 …
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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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