Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alexander Payne|
|Based on||The Descendants|
by Kaui Hart Hemmings
|Edited by||Kevin Tent|
Ad Hominem Enterprises
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Box office||$177.2 million|
The Descendants is a 2011 American drama film directed by Alexander Payne. The screenplay by Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The film stars George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Beau Bridges, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, and Robert Forster, and was released by Fox Searchlight Pictures in the United States on November 18, 2011, after being screened at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.
Tracing the journey of land baron Matt King, who struggles with unexpected occurrences in his monotonous life, The Descendants won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and two Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture – Drama and Best Actor – Drama for Clooney.
Matthew "Matt" King is a Honolulu-based attorney and the sole trustee of a family trust of 25,000 acres (100 km2) of pristine land on Kauai. The land has great monetary value, but is also a family legacy. While Matt has ably managed his own finances, most of his cousins have squandered their inheritances. With the trust expiring in seven years due to the rule against perpetuities, the King clan is pressuring Matt to sell the land for hundreds of millions of dollars. Amidst these discussions, a boating accident has rendered Matt's wife, Elizabeth, comatose. With Elizabeth hospitalized, Matt is forced to cope with his two troubled daughters, 10-year-old Scottie, who seeks attention by bullying other children, and 17-year-old Alex with a history of substance abuse who is away at a private boarding school on the Big Island. Doctors determine that Elizabeth's coma is irreversible and her living will directs all life support to be discontinued. When Matt tells Alex, she reveals she learned Elizabeth was having an affair during her last visit, causing a major rift between mother and daughter.
Two close family friends, Kai and Mark Mitchell, tell Matt that Elizabeth was unhappy and loved Brian Speer, a real estate agent, and wanted a divorce. After Matt informs friends about Elizabeth so they can say goodbye, he decides Speer should also have an opportunity. He and the girls, along with Alex's slacker friend Sid, travel to Kauai to find Brian. While there, Matt's cousin, Hugh, mentions that Brian is brother-in-law to Don Hollitzer, the developer to whom the family wants to sell the land. Brian stands to make a small fortune from the sales commission. Matt privately confronts Brian and informs him Elizabeth is dying, and offers him an opportunity to say goodbye. Brian says Elizabeth loved him, but he only loves his wife and children, then apologizes to Matt.
Frustrated and fragile from recent events, Matt asks Dr. Johnston to explain Elizabeth's inevitable death to Scottie. Elizabeth is disconnected from life support. Elizabeth's father, Scott, admonishes Matt for failing to be a more generous and loving husband. Withholding his wife's affair, Matt agrees with him, but Sid and Alex unexpectedly defend Matt. At the King family meeting, Matt overrules the majority of his cousins, who favor selling to Hollitzer. Matt decides to keep the land and look for a way around the rule against perpetuities. Shocked, Hugh tells Matt that the family will take legal action, but Matt is undeterred.
After learning about Brian's affair with Elizabeth, his wife, Julie, comes to the hospital. She tearfully tells Elizabeth that she wants to hate her for "trying to destroy" her family, but that she forgives her. Matt comes to terms with his wife's infidelity and impending death. He kisses her goodbye, followed by Alex and Scottie. They later scatter Elizabeth's ashes in the ocean off Waikiki.
- George Clooney as Matthew "Matt" King
- Shailene Woodley as Alexandra "Alex" King
- Amara Miller as Scottie King
- Nick Krause as Sid
- Beau Bridges as Hugh King
- Judy Greer as Julie Speer
- Matthew Lillard as Brian Speer
- Robert Forster as Scott Thorson
- Patricia Hastie as Elizabeth King
- Mary Birdsong as Kai Mitchell
- Rob Huebel as Mark Mitchell
- Milt Kogan as Dr. Johnston
- Laird Hamilton as Troy
- Michael Ontkean as Cousin Milo
- Matt Corboy as Kaiba
The film began its on-location shoot in Hawaii on March 15, 2010. Most of the film was shot in Honolulu and around Hanalei Bay. The location used as Matt King's house lacked the banyan tree described in the book; the filmmakers solved the issue by transplanting a banyan. 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.
The private boarding school attended by Alex King was depicted as Mid-Pacific Institute, which is in Honolulu, Oʻahu. Kaui Hart Hemmings stated that Hawaii Preparatory Academy, which is located in Kamuela, Hawaiʻi (the Big Island), was the inspiration for the private boarding school.
Postproduction began on June 14, and continued into February 2011. The film was screened at the Telluride, Toronto 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, and then November 18, 2011.
The soundtrack uses Hawaiian music, featuring artists including Gabby Pahinui, Ray Kane, Keola Beamer, Lena Machado, Sonny Chillingworth, Jeff Peterson, Makana, Dennis Kamakahi, and Danny Carvalho.
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 had its wide release on December 9 in 876 theaters, and grossed $4,380,138, averaging $5,000 per theater and ranking seventh 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.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 265 reviews, with an average rating of 8.14/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Funny, moving, and beautifully acted, The Descendants captures the unpredictable messiness of life with eloquence and uncommon grace." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Top ten lists
The Descendants has appeared on these critics' top-10 lists for the best films of 2011:
|Todd McCarthy||The Hollywood Reporter||1st|
|Betsy Sharkey||Los Angeles Times||1st|
|Don Kaye||MSN Movies||1st|
|Lou Lumenick||New York Post||1st|
|Stephen Holden||The New York Times||1st|
|Marshall Fine||Hollywood & Fine||1st|
|Joe Neumaier||Daily News||2nd|
|Ann Hornaday||The Washington Post||2nd|
|Peter Travers||Rolling Stone||3rd|
|Corben Carpenter||Clear Lake||3rd|
|Michael Phillips||Chicago Tribune||4th|
|Peter Rainer||The Christian Science Monitor||5th|
|Lisa Schwarzbaum||Entertainment Weekly||6th|
|Sean Axmaker||MSN Movies||6th|
|David Denby||The New Yorker||7th|
|Peter Hartlaub||San Francisco Chronicle||7th|
|Jaime N. Christley||Slant Magazine||7th|
|Peter Paras||E! Online||7th|
|Richard T. Jameson||MSN Movies||9th|
|Jack Gregson||ScreenGeeks UK||9th|
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- "Tree of Life Leads CFCA Nominations with 7; Descendants, Drive Follow with 6". Chicago Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on January 11, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
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- "Florida Film Critics swoon for 'The Descendants'". The Miami Herald. Miami Herald Media. December 19, 2011. Archived from the original on March 24, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
- Germain, David (December 15, 2011). "The Artist Leads 2011 Golden Globe Nominations With Six Bids". Time. Associated Press. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
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