The Descendants

  • 15
  • Alexander Payne (2011)
  • US / UK
  • 110 min
Film Review
Reviewed By
4 out of 5

Director Alexander Payne has past form (Sideways, About Schmidt) finding moving pathos in older men coping with stasis. Here, it's George Clooney's Hawaii-based lawyer, whose unfaithful wife is in a coma after an boating accident. Playing against his usual dashing persona, Clooney is greying, baggy and uncool in tucked-in shirts and pumps as he tracks down his wife's lover while stoically processing his own grief. He also must try to connect with his daughters and juggle a family land inheritance deal that draws on Hawaii's strong sense of genealogy. Clooney's awkward running style seems to typify the film's sense of absurd tragedy, its sense of melancholy enhanced by the soundtrack of traditional Hawaiian music. Meanwhile, Payne's skilfully rationed moments of humorous relief play out against a surprisingly precipitous but verdant landscape, little seen in US cinema and gorgeously shot by Sideways cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. Warm, subtle and gentle, The Descendants demonstrates what can happen when indie talent is nurtured to mainstream success.

Plot Summary

Comedy drama starring George Clooney. Hawaii-based lawyer Matt King must try and reconnect with his two rebellious daughters after his wife Elizabeth is left in a coma following a boating accident. But the task is made all the harder when a secret is revealed about Elizabeth's life.

Cast and crew


Matt King
George Clooney
Alexandra King
Shailene Woodley
Cousin Hugh
Beau Bridges
Scott Thorson
Robert Forster
Julie Speer
Judy Greer
Brian Speer
Matthew Lillard
Nick Krause
Scottie King
Amara Miller
Kai Mitchell
Mary Birdsong
Mark Mitchell
Rob Huebel
Cousin Milo
Michael Ontkean
Elizabeth King
Patricia Hastie
Alice "Tutu" Thorson
Barbara L Southern


Alexander Payne

Other Information

Theatrical distributor: 
20th Century Fox
Available on DVD and BluRay
Released 27 Jan 2012
Certificate 15