The Descendants 2011

Critics score:
89 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: I can't think of another movie this year that made me laugh or weep harder for the whole lumpy business of being - the compromises and connections that get us through the day and somehow add up to entire lives. Read more

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: It's Clooney and Woodley's movie, as they become a team before our eyes. Read more

Glenn Kenny, MSN Movies: It works like a the extent that one's critic self wants to resist the urge to break down why it's working. Read more

A.O. Scott, New York Times: To call "The Descendants" perfect would be a kind of insult, a betrayal of its commitment to, and celebration of, human imperfection. Its flaws are impossible to distinguish from its pleasures. Read more

Keith Uhlich, Time Out: As ever, Payne -- adapting a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings -- walks a fine line between caricature and compassion. Read more

David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture: Mockery and empathy seesaw, the balance precarious -- and thrillingly so. It's the noblest kind of satire: cruel and yet, in the end, lacking the killing blow. Read more

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: After his last feature, Mr. Payne was compared by some to Billy Wilder for his wit, and by others to Jean Renoir for his humanity. After this one I'd compare him to the man who made "Sideways." It's the highest praise I know. Read more

Claudia Puig, USA Today: As directed by Alexander Payne, the film moves seamlessly from wry humor to heartbreaking sadness and takes clever deviations from the expected. Read more

Scott Tobias, AV Club: Mostly, The Descendants deals wisely with the complexities of coming to terms with the death of a loved one who leaves a mess behind. Read more

Noel Murray, AV Club: The Hawaiian setting gives The Descendants a distinctive flavor that survives Payne's efforts to bury it in schmalz. Read more

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: With so many balls in the air the temptation is to rush from one plot strand to another, but Payne takes the opposite approach. He also captures the complexity of emotional reactions that grief stirs. Read more

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: The story keeps you guessing as to where it will go, and it features some piercing moments of emotional truth. Read more

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader: Alexander Payne has won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, but you'd never guess that from this clumsily written drama. Read more

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: It's lovely - funny and sad and funny/sad in ways you can't always pinpoint, capturing both the perpetual Pacific island breezes and the unsettled interior lives of Hemmings' characters, chief among them the attorney played by George Clooney. Read more

Mark Rabinowitz, A guaranteed multiple Oscar nominee and the film that cements Alexander Payne as one of the top filmmakers of his generation, The Descendants is nothing short of a masterpiece. Read more

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: This is a modest marvel of a movie. Read more

Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News: Alexander Payne has been gone so long, it's easy to forget just how good he is. With The Descendants, the director's first feature since 2004's Sideways, he reminds us what we've been missing. Read more

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: [Clooney] is a movie star who can't shake (and doesn't want to, one suspects) the baggage of that good fortune, yet consistently works to blend into the ensemble for the sake of story. The Descendants gives us his most emotional work to date. Read more

Tom Long, Detroit News: One of the year's best films, a bubbly meditation on family and responsibility that weighs just enough to matter. Read more

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: Another beautifully chiseled piece of filmmaking - sharp, funny, generous, and moving - that writes its own rules as much as About Schmidt or Sideways did. Read more

Eric D. Snider, This mature, well-acted dramatic comedy is deeply satisfying, maybe even cathartic. Read more

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter: A splendid comedy-drama about a father coping with his comatose wife and difficult daughters represents high points for George Clooney and Alexander Payne. Read more

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: A tragedy infused with comedy [that] calls for a balancing act from filmmaker and star alike, a tightrope they navigate with nary a wobble. Read more

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald: In the hands of writer-director Alexander Payne, Clooney has rarely seemed so much at home. Read more

David Thomson, The New Republic: The Descendants is humane, decent, and close to real quality. Read more

Anthony Lane, New Yorker: The latest exhibit in Payne's careful dissection of the beached male, which runs from Matthew Broderick's character in "Election" to Jack Nicholson's in "About Schmidt" and Paul Giamatti's in "Sideways." Read more

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger: "The Descendents" is terrific. Read more

Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News: Payne's observational humor and attention to detail yield something emotionally epic. Everything from beachfront jogs to hospital confessions reveals layers of humanity and absurdity. Read more

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: Great movies like The Descendants' don't only take an audience on an absorbing journey - in the hands of... Alexander Payne and a superb cast headed by George Clooney, you feel like you've come to know the characters' entire lives in the span of two hours Read more

Rex Reed, New York Observer: It's worth seeing for the sharp but uneven human observations in the script and direction by Alexander Payne (Sideways), and sometimes it's fun (but mostly exasperating) watching George Clooney trying to act as he struggles through... Read more

Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer: Payne introduces a circle of friends and family, and shows us the connections, and conflicts, in play. And he makes it all feel lived-in, real. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: The Descendants may be director Alexander Payne's finest outing to date. Read more

Richard Roeper, Richard "The Descendants" is one of the stranger and yet one of the more effective weepers in recent years. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: We get vested in the lives of these characters. That's rare in a lot of movies. We come to understand how they think and care about what they decide. Read more

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: The Descendants is damn near perfect. Director Alexander Payne is a master of the human comedy and George Clooney has never exposed himself to the camera this openly. Read more

Andrew O'Hehir, Begins as a rambling tale about an inept father wrestling with tragedy and gradually builds toward a satisfying emotional payoff. Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: It's more straightforward and sentimental than most Payne films, and at times it lands very close to sitcom territory. But it also has scenes as wrenching and as true as any onscreen this year. Read more

Dana Stevens, Slate: It's such a disappointment that The Descendants -- Alexander Payne's first film after a seven-year hiatus following Sideways -- isn't a better movie than it is. Read more

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: Clooney offers an assured, multidimensional performance, nailing both the deathbed remorse and the physical comedy. Read more

Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: In playing an everyman stranded between anger and duty, Clooney earns an emotional payoff that a lesser actor would simply demand. Read more

Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail: Payne has always tended to look at society from the perspective of a curious, puzzled alien, but now the alien has grown moist-eyed and affectionate. Read more

Gayle MacDonald, Globe and Mail: Clooney and the elder daughter (Shailene Woodley) give Oscar-worthy performances in this hard-knocks film that will have you laughing one moment and sobbing the next. Read more

Alonso Duralde, TheWrap: You think you know exactly how this work-distracted father is going to reconnect with his daughters, and what obligatory moments the movie will provide, but both the script and the stars are too smart for that. Read more

Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine: I'm a notorious softie, and I found things to like about the film, most particularly Clooney's performance; but I remained untouched. Read more

Dave Calhoun, Time Out: Payne is an unobtrusive director, a filmmaker who lets the script do the walking - in this case, perhaps too much. Read more

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: This is stealth comedy, richly delivered, and the rising Oscar buzz around it is deserved. Read more

Peter Debruge, Variety: The Descendants" tackles some of the prickliest issues a contempo family can face with such sensitivity that it's hardly noticeable you're being enlightened while entertained. Read more

J. Hoberman, Village Voice: It left me cold. The pathos is as unearned as the protagonist's privilege. Read more

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: A tough, tender, observant, exquisitely nuanced portrait of mixed emotions at their most confounding and profound -- all at play within a deliciously damp, un-touristy Hawaii that's at once lush and lovely to look at. Read more