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182 of 209 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Family Dramedy About Searching For Truth, But Finding Something More Important
It seems hard to believe that it's been seven years since Alexander Payne's "Sideways" became the critical darling of 2004. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and winning Payne an Adapted Screenplay Oscar--that picture (along with Election and About Schmidt) signaled a talented filmmaker with an unorthodox worldview. Blending elements of comedy and...
Published on December 1, 2011 by K. Harris

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30 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A really good "movie-of-the-week"
While "The Descendants" is well acting and directed, and entertaining on, at least, a basic level, it seems to slip from memory almost as one leaves the theater.

One podcast critic expressed a view that this film is "a mile wide and an inch deep". That, to me, says it exactly. If I had seen "The Descendants" on TV as a "movie-of-the-week" I would have...
Published on January 22, 2012 by Robert Blenheim


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182 of 209 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Family Dramedy About Searching For Truth, But Finding Something More Important, December 1, 2011
This review is from: The Descendants (DVD)
It seems hard to believe that it's been seven years since Alexander Payne's "Sideways" became the critical darling of 2004. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and winning Payne an Adapted Screenplay Oscar--that picture (along with Election and About Schmidt) signaled a talented filmmaker with an unorthodox worldview. Blending elements of comedy and drama, Payne has crafted complex characters simultaneously frustrating and sympathetic--but altogether real. In adapting Kaui Hart Hemmings' intimate novel "The Descendants" to the big screen, Payne demonstrates (once again) a deft balance of emotions to create a picture both funny and heartbreaking. I so admired how Payne made vineyards and fine wines a major component, an extra character really, in the sublime "Sideways." In much the same way, Hawaii is a principle character (and I would contend one of the most pivotal) to "The Descendents." It would be easy to imagine someone jettisoning much of this rich texture, but Payne has crafted a loving tribute to the state's heritage in addition to one of the year's most surprising family dramas.

George Clooney plays one of the titular descendants, someone whose family has great historical significance to the Hawaiian Islands. In fact, he and his many cousins own a great tract of undeveloped land that plays a major role in the film's fascinating side story. Front and center, however, is a more personal tale of family dysfunction and pulling together in crisis. When Clooney's somewhat estranged wife is incapacitated in an accident, Clooney must take charge of his troublesome teenage daughter (an astute Shailene Woodley) and his rebellious younger girl (an appealingly unexpected Amara Miller). With mom in a coma, Clooney is left to do his best to reconnect with the girls that he hasn't made enough time for. While this seems to be leading to some routine comic hijinks, the film takes a decidedly more serious turn as Clooney learns about his wife's true feelings. The rest of the movie walks the tightrope about how he and his daughters can channel these revelations and emerge stronger for it. And the film runs the gamut of emotions with anger, betrayal, love, and regret sharing equal time as the family embarks on a tumultuous journey together.

While I know this makes the film sound like a bit of a downer, there is much humor to be enjoyed as well. While I'm confident that many will reveal far more about the plot than I am willing to, I think that it is best to let the story unravel without expectation. This is very much an in-depth character study. As such, Clooney has one of his most rewarding roles. He goes through a lot, but he maintains a subtlety that always keeps the picture grounded (even in its more extreme elements). Woodley is a revelation and this is as far a departure from TV's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" as she's likely to experience. I'm confident we'll be seeing more of her. Miller has a real ease and provides many well placed laughs and a few tears as well. Perhaps the film's biggest secret weapon is Nick Krause playing Woodley's friend. As a laconic and laid back surfer dude, Krause's scenes with Clooney have real impact. As an odd source of wisdom and support, he is a unique character in this piece.

"The Descendants," at the end of the day, is a quiet and thoughtful film. The film never plays up the huge emotional moments or strains for melodrama. It simply lets the characters exist as complex creations, with all their foibles and flaws in evidence. Its understated power, therefore, is all the more successful as it feels patently real. A treat for adult movie goers, 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 12/11.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life As It Is (In Alexander Payne's Style), December 15, 2012
By 
Tsuyoshi (Kyoto, Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Descendants (DVD)
It is pretty difficult to describe what kind of a film Alexander Payne's new film "The Descendants" is. Some will think it is a comedy drama about messy nature of life. Others may feel the film is rather sad, dealing with life's most devastating moment. Perhaps both views are right.

The story itself is simple. George Clooney plays Matt King, a successful Hawaiian lawyer and sole trustee of pristine land on Kauai Island. His wife Elizabeth has been in coma since the boating accident a few weeks ago. Having been too busy, he doesn't know how to talk to his two daughters, precocious 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and rebellious 17-year-old Alex (Shailene Woodley). In his voiceover Matt pleads with his wife to wake up.

Ironically it is Matt who has to "wake up." He learns that his comatose wife had been "seeing" someone. With his wife's health deteriorating, Matt sets out to seek the truths about that guy, with his daughters and Alex's slacker friend Sid (Nick Krause) only to find unexpected consequences. And Matt has to make a grave decision about a tract of land in less than a week.

With the beautifully shot on-location photography in Hawaii, "The Descendants" sometimes looks like a visual travelogue, but the beautiful images sometime hide uncomfortable surprises and facts Matt didn't want to know. The film is part Matt's spiritual journey that is, skillfully told by the director, is amusing and touching at the same time without relying on conventional settings. It may not be all that uplifting, but overall optimistic.

The film is in a sense a character study of Matt (played superbly by George Clooney), but other characters are equally intriguing. While Alex tends to conceal what she really feels (like her father), her sister Scottie takes things as they seem and behaves accordingly. Looking at Matt and his daughters reminds us what we understand least is often someone very close to you.

To me, the strength of "The Descendants" lies in these characters whose emotions seem often unaccountable (even to those who possess them), but still genuine and realistic nonetheless. Alexander Payne explores how our life could be messy and painful - and also amazing - in his own unique style.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, Missleading Trailer, August 21, 2012
This review is from: The Descendants (DVD)
Directed by the creator of the Oscar-winning SIDEWAYS, The Descendants starts when Matt King, a "back-up" father (his words) must slow down his career to take care of his two daughters (17 and 11) while his wife is in the hospital in a comma caused by a boat accident. Soon we learn, his wife, spurned by Matt's long absences and indifference, was having an affair. Matt and his older daughter decide to search for this man they never met dragging along the younger girl and the oldest girl's boyfriend, and, of course, the viewer.

The Descendants has many things going for it. George Clooney, for one, beautiful views of two of the islands of Hawaii, a strong story that does not shy away from reality and avoids the sugarcoating so prevalent in Hollywood movies, and great acting from all the actors including the aforementioned Mr. Clooney.

Yet, I cannot say I loved it.

Why? Because it is a realistic take on fatherhood and marriage and, after watching the trailer, I expected something lighter.

This is not the movie's fault. The Descendants is a serious movie and that's perfectly all right. I like serious movies. But not when I am expecting something else.

So, now that you know, please go and enjoy. It's worth seeing. Just don't go for the laughs.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable film with Clooney at his best, April 8, 2012
By 
Monkdude (Hampton, Virginia) - See all my reviews
I had missed this highly rated (by the critics) movie in theaters, so I finally got around to renting the Blu-ray over the weekend.

It's mostly a sad drama about a man slowly losing his wife after a boating accident, but there are a few comedic moments along the way that are realistic, rather than forced. The writing and the entire cast are great. I'm not the biggest George Clooney fan, but his work in Up in the Air and The Descendants has totally made me a believer in his acting talents when given the right material. The girl who plays his oldest daughter is very good as well. One of the better movies I've seen in 2012 and worth checking out.
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58 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poignant Depiction of a Family in Crisis, December 15, 2011
This review is from: The Descendants (DVD)
The Descendants, a movie starring George Clooney, is the best film I've seen all year. It is adult-themed, realistic and poignant. The dialogue seems real, the acting is superb and the photography of Hawaii is spellbindingly beautiful. The story is about Matt King, descended from King Kamehameha many generations back. He and his family have inherited quite a bit of land for which Matt is the executor and they are in the process of selling it. The proceeds will go to Matt and his cousins. Despite having wealth, Matt has lived frugally, to the point where one might question his motives. His wife, Elizabeth, has just been severely injured in a boating accident and is comatose. It is unlikely that she ever will wake up and her living will is very explicit that she wants her life support pulled.

Matt has two daughters, Scottie and Alex. Alex is 17 and a handful. As the film opens, she is in a private school that may also be a rehab facility. Scottie, about 10, is acting out at school and at home since her mother's injury. Matt is clueless about how to raise his two daughters alone and has been very distant from his family spending most of his time working at his law practice. The crisis with Elizabeth is forcing him to be a primary parent and the film is excellent in showing Matt's development as a father.

Matt goes to the big island to pull Alex from school and bring her home. She is furious at her mother, having found out recently that she was having an affair. She tells her father and the two become co-conspirators in finding Joanie's lover and confronting him. Matt is flabbergasted about the affair. The marriage has not been going well but he had no suspicions that his wife loved another man.

George Clooney is excellent in his part as are the two girls. The movie poignantly shows how the family starts pulling together into a semblance of a loving unit. The dialogue is fresh and real, not for the faint of heart or for those who mind cursing. I have not read the book so I can't compare the two but on its own merits, this film is a real winner.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie to see More than Once, January 7, 2013
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This review is from: The Descendants (DVD)
This movie not only has great cast, but includes extra features we enjoyed seeing after the movie. The movie is based on a family with hardships and situations anyone could experience. Funny times and tear dripper times. A movie all should see when age appropriate. Glad we purchased it to see more than once and even again after we have had it a year.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Descendents, December 9, 2012
By 
Sasha (Central Valley, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Descendants (DVD)
George Clooney did a spectacular job of acting in this movie. This movie was so well acted by everyone in this movie that before yopu knew it the movie was over. I watched this movie a few times and enjoyed it every time. Highly recommend.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MY LOVE, MY FRIEND, MY PAIN, MY JOY..., March 18, 2012
There is 90 seconds of film where George Clooney is not on the screen. But don't worry, he narrates for us so we don't forget he is in the film. His wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) has a boating accident we don't get to see because Clooney wasn't there. She is in a coma and is going to die. Clooney has been so involved with his job (he has a big deal in the works) that he has alienated himself from his family. Now he is attempting to reconnect with his two daughters, the older of which has harsh feelings for her mother.

The story develops to a point where Elizabeth's coma becomes almost secondary. Clooney's deal involves all of his cousins and a realtor Clooney would rather not deal with for personal reasons. In order to help her cope, the older daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) has a boyfriend (Nick Krause) who hangs out with her during this interim.

The movie is a drama, but the dysfunctional family provides for light humor and some dark humor to keep the film from getting too heavy. Good acting. Well written and directed. Film is really great if you like the color blue: blue skies, blue water, blue Hawaiian shirts...and Clooney.

F-bomb, no sex or nudity. 4 1/2 stars.
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30 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A really good "movie-of-the-week", January 22, 2012
By 
Robert Blenheim (Daytona Beach, Florida) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
While "The Descendants" is well acting and directed, and entertaining on, at least, a basic level, it seems to slip from memory almost as one leaves the theater.

One podcast critic expressed a view that this film is "a mile wide and an inch deep". That, to me, says it exactly. If I had seen "The Descendants" on TV as a "movie-of-the-week" I would have recommended it on that simple level, but as a feature film with pretenses of garnering an Oscar, it definitely falls far short of the mark. (But, if it wins, it certainly won't be the first one to unjustly win the statuette -- anyone remember "Terms of Endearment" which I continue to call "Tears of Endurement"?)

Clooney IS great as he always is but because of the film's shallowness his big crying scene had me thinking the whole time, "this scene was contrived solely to be an Oscar scene", as was much of the movie. In a year that gave us "The Tree of Life" and "Hugo", this film winning the gold (and it might) would be an uunmitigated farce.

But, farce or not, being overrated is hardly reason enough to denigrate this film. It's a good one that most viewers will find entertaining. And well made. So, I recommend it but, pu-hleeze, don't tell me this is a great film, or even a work of cinematic art! It isn't.

Bob Blenheim
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful story about family relationships, March 9, 2014
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I could relate to the movie - specifically the story line about the land inheritance. It is one we are going through now. Outstanding performances across the board - George, his kids, the boyfriend (who really highlighted the movie in a sweet, funny and surprising way). There is laughter, tears and beautiful scenery to get you through this well-acted movie. Grab some popcorn and maybe some Kleenex and enjoy.
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The Descendants (DVD + Blu-ray + Digital Combo Pack)
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