The Descendants

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The Descendants
A man looking over his shoulder at the beach behind him, two people standing in the distance by the water.
Teaser poster
Directed by Alexander Payne
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on The Descendants 
by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Starring
Cinematography Phedon Papamichael
Edited by Kevin Tent
Production
company
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • September 10, 2011 (2011-09-10) (TIFF)
  • November 18, 2011 (2011-11-18) (United States[1])
Running time 115 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million[3]
Box office $177,243,185[4]

The Descendants is a 2011 American comedy-drama film[5] directed by Alexander Payne. The screenplay by Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash is based on the novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The film stars George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard and Robert Forster, and was released by Fox Searchlight Pictures in the United States on November 18, 2011[1] after being screened at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.[5]

Tracing the journey of land baron Matt King who struggles with unexpected occurrences in his monotonous life, The Descendants was released to positive reviews from critics and won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as two Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture – Drama and Best Actor – Drama for Clooney.

Plot[edit]

Matthew "Matt" King (George Clooney) is a Honolulu-based attorney and the sole trustee of a family trust that controls 25,000 acres of pristine land on the island of Kauai—land that is not only of great monetary value, but of distinct cultural value as well. Though he has been able to manage his money, most of Matt's cousins are broke from squandering their share of the inheritance. The trust will expire in seven years because of the rule against perpetuities, so the King family has decided to sell the land to Kauai's native Don Holitzer for development. Just before family members are ready to formally endorse the deal, a boating accident near Waikīkī renders Matt's wife, Elizabeth, comatose.

The Kings have two daughters, 17-year-old Alex (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller). With Elizabeth in a coma at Queen's Hospital, he is forced to confront Scottie's inappropriate behavior with other children and Alex's destructive ways. Matt is informed by one of his wife's doctors that Elizabeth will never awaken from her coma, which means that under the terms of her living will she must be disconnected shortly from life support. When Matt tells Alex the news, she reveals that Elizabeth was having an affair at the time of the accident, which has caused a major rift between mother and daughter.

One of Matt's friends, Kai Mitchell, says that Elizabeth had planned to leave Matt for her lover; later, Kai's husband, Mark, tells him that the man is named Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard). Matt decides to find Brian and convince him to visit Elizabeth while she is still alive, learning that he is a real estate agent currently vacationing in Kauai. After telling the family of Elizabeth's terminal prognosis, Matt, along with the girls and Alex's slacker friend Sid (Nick Krause), travel to Kauai. During a jog on a beach, Matt recognizes Brian and follows him to a cottage owned by Matt's cousin, Hugh (Beau Bridges). Hugh tells him that Brian is Holitzer's brother-in-law, and if Matt and his family sell their land to Holitzer, Brian stands to gain a lot of money from commissions when it is developed.

Later that evening, Matt and Alex return to Brian's cottage and, while Alex distracts Brian's wife Julie (Judy Greer), Matt finally confronts Brian and tells him about his wife's condition. Brian says that while Elizabeth loved him, the affair was only a fling for him, and he loves his wife and family. He tells Matt he is sorry for the pain he caused.

Matt, Scottie, Alex and Sid return home. At Matt's request, at the hospital, Scottie is finally told of her mother's impending death by a grief counselor, allowing her, too, to begin her process of farewell.

After Elizabeth is disconnected, her father, Scott (Robert Forster), together with his wife and son, comes to the hospital to say his last goodbyes. He accuses Matt of not having been a more generous and loving husband to Elizabeth, whom he describes as a good and faithful wife. Matt agrees with him, choosing not to disclose the details of her affair. Sid and Alex both unexpectedly come to Matt's defense.

Matt meets with his cousins to vote on the fate of the land. The majority vote in favor of selling to Holitzer, but Matt has second thoughts and decides to keep the land and find a different solution. Shocked, Hugh tells Matt that he and the other cousins may take legal action, but Matt is undeterred.

Brian's wife Julie, after learning of the affair and realizing that Brian will not visit Elizabeth, comes to the hospital, partly feeling that decency obliges her to. She tearfully admits to Elizabeth that she wants to hate her for "trying to destroy" her family, but that she forgives her.

Alone by his wife's hospital bed after Julie leaves, Matt finally comes to terms with his wife's act of betrayal, and tenderly kisses her goodbye. He is followed by Alex and Scottie.

Matt, Alex, and Scottie scatter Elizabeth's ashes in the ocean off Waikiki. The film closes in a "breaking the fourth wall" fashion, with the three watching the same screen as the film's viewers. The family settles in one at a time, ostensibly watching March of the Penguins, while curled up on the living room couch, eating ice cream and sharing the quilt that was on Elizabeth's death bed.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film began its on-location shoot in Hawaii on March 15, 2010.[6] Most of the film was shot in Honolulu and around Hanalei Bay.[7] The house used as Matt King's house had a flaw in that it lacked the banyan tree described in the book; the filmmakers solved the issue by transplanting a banyan.[7] For the scene where the King family drives up to a ridge to look over their land, the film used a 3,000-acre private cattle ranch on the south shore of Kauai, Kipu Ranch. Kaui Hart Hemmings, the author of the novel on which the movie was based, had a cameo as Matt King's secretary.

Post-production began on June 14, and continued into February 2011.[8] It screened at the Telluride, Toronto[9] and New York film festivals and was originally scheduled to have a limited release on December 16, 2011, but was moved to November 23, 2011[10] and then November 18, 2011.[1][11]

The soundtrack uses Hawaiian music, featuring artists including Gabby Pahinui, Ray Kane, Keola Beamer, Lena Machado, Sonny Chillingworth, Jeff Peterson, and Reverend Dennis Kamakahi.[12]

Reception[edit]

The Descendants opened in North America on November 16 2011 in a Limited release in 29 theaters and grossed $1,190,096 averaging $41,038 per theater and ranking 10th at the box office. The film then has its Wide release on December 9 in 876 theaters and grossed $4,380,138 averaging $5,000 per theater and ranking 7th at the box office. The film was in cinemas for 156 days and its widest release in The United States was 2,038 theaters. The film ended up earning $82,584,160 domestically and $94,659,025 internationally for a total of $177,243,185.[13]

The Descendants received critical acclaim upon release, with many critics praising the acting (particularly Clooney and Woodley). On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 89% based on 235 reviews with an average rating of 8.1 out of 10. The consensus states "Funny, moving, and beautifully acted, The Descendants captures the unpredictable messiness of life with eloquence and uncommon grace."[14] The film also has a score of 84 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 43 reviews.[15]


Top ten lists[edit]

The Descendants has appeared on the following critics' top ten lists for the best films of 2011:

Critic Publication Rank
Todd McCarthy The Hollywood Reporter 1st[16]
Betsy Sharkey Los Angeles Times 1st[16]
Don Kaye MSN Movies 1st[16]
Lou Lumenick New York Post 1st[16]
Stephen Holden The New York Times 1st[16]
Marshall Fine Hollywood & Fine 1st[16]
Joe Neumaier Daily News 2nd[16]
Ann Hornaday The Washington Post 2nd[17]
Peter Travers Rolling Stone 3rd[18]
Corben Carpenter Clear Lake 3rd[16]
Michael Phillips Chicago Tribune 4th[16]
Anne Thompson indieWire 4th[16]
Peter Rainer The Christian Science Monitor 5th[16]
Lisa Schwarzbaum Entertainment Weekly 6th[16]
Sean Axmaker MSN Movies 6th[16]
David Denby The New Yorker 7th[16]
Peter Hartlaub San Francisco Chronicle 7th[16]
Jaime N. Christley Slant Magazine 7th[16]
Peter Paras E! Online 7th[19]
Richard T. Jameson MSN Movies 9th[16]
N/A MTV 9th[16]
Jack Gregson ScreenGeeks UK 9th[16]

Accolades[edit]

List of awards and nominations
Awards Group Category Recipients and nominees Result
84th Academy Awards[20] Best Picture Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role George Clooney Nominated
Best Director Alexander Payne Nominated
Best Editing Kevin Tent Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash Won
Argentine Academy of Cinematography Arts and Sciences Awards[21] Best Foreign Film Alexander Payne, Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor Nominated
American Film Institute[22] Movies of the Year Won
Art Directors Guild[23] Contemporary Film Jane Anne Stewart (Production Design) Nominated
Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts[24] Best Film – International Nominated
Best Screenplay – International Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash Nominated
Best Actor – International George Clooney Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Award[25] Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor George Clooney Nominated
Best Use of Music in a Film Nominated
65th British Academy Film Awards BAFTA Award for Best Film Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role George Clooney Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash Nominated
Casting Society of America[26] Outstanding Achievement in Casting for a Big Budget Drama Feature John Jackson, John McAlary Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards[27][28] Best Film Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Best Ensemble Nominated
Best Actor George Clooney Nominated
Actor of the Year George Clooney (Also for The Ides of March) Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Won
Breakthrough Film Artist Shailene Woodley Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association[29][30] Best Picture Nominated
Best Director Alexander Payne Nominated
Best Actor George Clooney Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash Nominated
Best Promising Performer Shailene Woodley Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards[31] Best Picture Nominated
Best Actor George Clooney Won
Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Best Director Alexander Payne Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash Nominated
Denver Film Critics Society[32] Best Film Nominated
Best Director Alexander Payne Nominated
Best Actor George Clooney Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Won
Best Supporting Actress Judy Greer Nominated
Best Breakout Star Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash Won
Detroit Film Critics Society[33] Best Film Nominated
Best Actor George Clooney Nominated
Breakthrough Performance Shailene Woodley Nominated
Florida Film Critics Circle[34] Best Picture Won
Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash Won
Golden Globe Awards[35] Best Picture – Drama Won
Best Director Alexander Payne Nominated
Best Actor – Drama George Clooney Won
Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash Nominated
Grammy Awards[36] Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards[37] Best Film Nominated
Best Director Alexander Payne Nominated
Best Supporting Female Shailene Woodley Won
Best Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association[38] Best Film Won
Best Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash Nominated
MTV Movie Awards[39] Best Breakthrough Performance Shailene Woodley Won
National Board of Review[40] Top 10 Films Won
Best Actor George Clooney Won
Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash Won
New York Film Critics Online[41] Best Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash Won
Online Film Critics Society[42] Best Picture Nominated
Best Actor George Clooney Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Palm Springs International Film Festival[43] Chairman's Award George Clooney (Also for The Ides of March) Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society[44] Best Picture Nominated
Best Director Alexander Payne Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role George Clooney Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Screenplay: Adaptation Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash Nominated
Breakthrough Performance on Camera Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role: Female Amara Miller Nominated
Producers Guild of America Award[45] Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards[46] Best Ensemble Beau Bridges, George Clooney, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Actor George Clooney Nominated
Satellite Awards[47] Best Film – Drama Won
Best Actor George Clooney Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Judy Greer Nominated
Best Director Alexander Payne Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash Won
Best Editing Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[48] Best Actor George Clooney Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash Won
Best Film Nominated
Best Director Alexander Payne Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Abrams, Rachel (September 7, 2011). "'Descendants' gets earlier bow: Clooney starrer beats Thanksgiving glut with Nov. 18 rollout". Variety. Archived from the original on September 15, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  2. ^ "The Descendants (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 27, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Box office business for The Descendants". IMDB. Retrieved December 22, 2012. 
  4. ^ "The Descendants (2011)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved February 26, 2011. 
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  6. ^ Guerrasio, Jason (March 15, 2010). "Alexander Payne's 'The Descendants' Begins Shooting". Filmmaker. Archived from the original on March 23, 2010. Retrieved October 29, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Fox Searchlight Pictures, Production Notes, The Descendants.
  8. ^ Fischbach, Bob (July 18, 2010). "Payne busy editing Hawaii family drama". Omaha World Herald. Archived from the original on June 16, 2011. Retrieved October 29, 2010. 
  9. ^ Lambert, Christine (2011). "The Descendant premiere photos – 36th Toronto International Film Festival". DigitalHit.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
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  15. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/movie/the-descendants
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  23. ^ Kilday, Gregg (January 3, 2012). "Art Directors Nominate Movies as Different as 'Harry Potter' and 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  24. ^ "AACTA Awards winners and nominees". Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA). January 31, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  25. ^ Pond, Steve (December 11, 2011). "Martin Scorsese Named Best Director by Boston Film Critics". The Wrap. Retrieved December 11, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Casting Society of America Announces Artios Awards Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. August 20, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2012. 
  27. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (January 2, 2012). "'Tree of Life' leads the way with Central Ohio critics nominations". HitFix. Retrieved December 9, 2012. 
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  34. ^ "Florida Film Critics swoon for 'The Descendants'". The Miami Herald. December 19, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2012. 
  35. ^ David Germain (December 15, 2011). "The Artist Leads 2011 Golden Globe Nominations With Six Bids". Time. Associated Press. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  36. ^ Brooks, Brian (December 6, 2012). "'The Hunger Games' And 'The Muppets' Top Grammy Awards Movie Nominees". Movieline. PMC. Retrieved December 6, 2012. 
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  38. ^ "LAFCA". LAFCA. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
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External links[edit]