“Paradises Is Just Myth.”
“So, What's The Problem Here?”
“A Marvelous Character Study...”
“Matt King Is Dealt The Blow That His Dying Wife Had Been Cheating On Him Before Her Accident, And His Teenage Daughter Is Left To Pick Up The Pieces Of A Relationship That Has Been Shattered Because Of Said Events.”
“In Hindsight This Movie Begs For Multiple Viewing, With The Narrative And Emotions That Follow Watching This Being So Strong, It Is Easy To Say That 'The Descendants' Should Be Viewed More Than Once.”
“The Descendants Is A 2011 Dramedy That Is As Unchallenging As It Is Unrewarding, Playing More To The Tune Of Monotone Than Masterpiece.”
“The Descendants Beautifully Sets-up Captivating Characters The Audience Can Connect With Through An Emotional Time In Their Lives. The Characters Will Stay With You In Your Heart Long After The Film Ends And For That... It Deserves A Round Of Applause.”
“A Family Drama Whose Distinction Comes From Its Subtleties And Nuances.”
Another beautifully chiseled piece of filmmaking - sharp, funny, generous, and moving - that writes its own rules as much as About Schmidt or Sideways did.
Owen Gleiberman - Entertainment Weekly
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.
A.O. Scott - New York Times
As directed by Alexander Payne, the film moves seamlessly from wry humor to heartbreaking sadness and takes clever deviations from the expected.
Claudia Puig - USA Today
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.
Ann Hornaday - Washington Post
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.
Ty Burr - Boston Globe
It left me cold. The pathos is as unearned as the protagonist's privilege.
J. Hoberman - Village Voice
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.
Joe Neumaier - New York Daily News
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.
Joe Morgenstern - Wall Street Journal
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.
Chris Vognar - Dallas Morning News
[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.
Lisa Kennedy - Denver Post
It works like a charm...to the extent that one's critic self wants to resist the urge to break down why it's working.
Glenn Kenny - MSN Movies
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."
Anthony Lane - New Yorker
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.
Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times
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.
Michael Phillips - Chicago Tribune
Alexander Payne has won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, but you'd never guess that from this clumsily written drama.
J. R. Jones - Chicago Reader
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.
Steven Rea - Philadelphia Inquirer
Clooney offers an assured, multidimensional performance, nailing both the deathbed remorse and the physical comedy.
Colin Covert - Minneapolis Star Tribune
One of the year's best films, a bubbly meditation on family and responsibility that weighs just enough to matter.
Tom Long - Detroit News
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.
Bill Goodykoontz - Arizona Republic
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...
Rex Reed - New York Observer
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.
Peter Debruge - Variety
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
Lou Lumenick - New York Post
This is stealth comedy, richly delivered, and the rising Oscar buzz around it is deserved.
Peter Howell - Toronto Star
This mature, well-acted dramatic comedy is deeply satisfying, maybe even cathartic.
Eric D. Snider - Film.com
The challenge in describing the film is that it doesn't neatly fit into any pigeonhole. It's a serious movie that happens to have a sense of humor, because Payne and his collaborators see the absurdity in everyday existence.
Leonard Maltin - indieWIRE
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.
Liam Lacey - 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.
Gayle MacDonald - Globe and Mail
Begins as a rambling tale about an inept father wrestling with tragedy and gradually builds toward a satisfying emotional payoff.
Andrew O'Hehir - Salon.com
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.
Dana Stevens - Slate
The Descendants may be director Alexander Payne's finest outing to date.
James Berardinelli - ReelViews
A splendid comedy-drama about a father coping with his comatose wife and difficult daughters represents high points for George Clooney and Alexander Payne.
Todd McCarthy - Hollywood Reporter
The story keeps you guessing as to where it will go, and it features some piercing moments of emotional truth.
Christy Lemire - Associated Press
I'm a notorious softie, and I found things to like about the film, most particularly Clooney's performance; but I remained untouched.
Richard Corliss - TIME Magazine
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.
Peter Travers - Rolling Stone
"The Descendants" is one of the stranger and yet one of the more effective weepers in recent years.
Richard Roeper - Richard Roeper.com
A tragedy infused with comedy [that] calls for a balancing act from filmmaker and star alike, a tightrope they navigate with nary a wobble.
Betsy Sharkey - Los Angeles Times
Mr. Payne's undeniable knack for naturalism makes "The Descendants" a wholly persuasive and heartfelt experience.
Martin Tsai - Critic's Notebook
I enjoyed Clooney's performance enormously without ever buying it for a second.
Sean Burns - Philadelphia Weekly
The Descendants is an exercise in why women are such horrible, despicable shrews. When this film isn't demonising its female characters for daring to be unhappy in their marriage, it's condescending them for showing too much emotion...
Glenn Dunks - Trespass
A truthful, warm-hearted, deeply moving film about loss, about death, about legacies and, yeah, family.
Will Leitch - Deadspin
The Descendants is humane, decent, and close to real quality.
David Thomson - The New Republic
People looking for a good lei would be wise to say aloha to 'The Descendants,' Alexander Payne's Hawaiian-set luau in which laughter and tears combine for a cinematic feast.
Al Alexander - The Patriot Ledger
A beautifully touching, tragic and amusing follow-up film from the director of Sideways.
Tom Glasson - Concrete Playground
The Descendants manages to even surpass those stratospheric expectations most fans will have walking into the theatre.
Kristal Cooper - We Got This Covered
Like "Sideways" and "About Schmidt," "The Descendants" lets Alexander Payne show us the Other America and the Other Americans - little lives caught up in small but epic problems far away from the La La Land of Hollywood hype, sex and violence.
Each year there are usually one or two films that don't deserve all of the insane praise they get (last year's The Fighter is a prime example) and it looks like "The Descendants" is one for this year.
Jeff Beck - Examiner.com
Understandable when dealing with Payne's typically directionless protagonists, The Descendants occasionally feels like it is unsure of where it's going, yet it still always ambles along at a pleasant pace regardless.
Matt Looker - TheShiznit.co.uk
A thoroughly rewarding assembled-for-adults dramedy that benefits immensely from both its island locale and one of George Clooney's finest performances.
Erick Weber - NECN
- Sight and Sound
The Descendants is a devastating and rewarding emotional journey.
Blake Howard - 2UE That Movie Show
Will keep you soaked in its melancholy until the very end...
Felix Vasquez Jr. - Cinema Crazed
Sort of like a shotgun marriage between Jimmy Buffett and Harry Chapin.
Rob Gonsalves - eFilmCritic.com
There's some pretty tricky material for Payne and crew to navigate, but anchored by a terrific cast it's a journey of hurt and healing that lingers.
Bruce Bennett - Spectrum (St. George, Utah)
overrated, but not a bad movie
Kevin Carr - 7M Pictures
"The Descendants" goes on too long, but that's its only flaw. And frankly, I can see why Payne and his editor decided to go with this print instead of making some awfully tough decisions.
James Plath - Movie Metropolis
George Clooney gives a wonderful lead performance in his new film The Descendants but Clooney has always been more than just a handsome face, he's a proper movie star and in that old Hollywood tradition, he's also an everyman, one of us.
Brian Henry Martin - UTV
No doubt the awards hype around the film will get people into cinemas but it doesn't warrant the attention considering Payne's previous work and Clooney has put in much better performances.
Cameron Williams - The Popcorn Junkie
Payne manages to give the film a lightness that makes it uplifting or at the least fulfilling, rather than depressing.
Matt Neal - The Standard
full review at Movies for the Masses
Joseph Proimakis - Movies for the Masses
This film is one of the best films of 2011 and should compete for top awards when the Academy Awards roll around.
Robert Roten - Laramie Movie Scope
The sharp wit and commitment to damaged men remain, but with his newfound appreciation of what goes unsaid, The Descendants sees Payne finally becoming the filmmaker many have claimed he was all along.
Andrew Simpson - Fan The Fire
Payne, whose early features were set in his native Omaha, has always shown an acute if unconventional sense of place.
Philip Kemp - Sight and Sound
It's rare for a director to strike the right chord with every film but Alexander Payne has managed it.
Rebecca Barry - Flicks.co.nz
The Descendants becomes a kind of exhilarating, island-hopping road movie with Matt as much in search of himself as of his wife's mysterious lover. Along the way he's learning what it means to be a man, to understand himself and others.
Philip French - Observer [UK]
The film's tone is quaint but the story dramatic and the characters maintain the ability to shock and surprise.
Luke Buckmaster - Crikey
Uma narrativa artificial e fragil que soa mais como a visao de um roteirista alienado de Hollywood sobre a vida de uma pessoa comum (multimilionaria, claro) do que como algo com o qual individuos reais poderiam se identificar de alguma maneira.
Pablo Villaca - Cinema em Cena
Payne's interest is the human drama: he's very much the director-as-novelist and The Descendants has all the satisfactions of a story well told.
David Sexton - This is London
Set against the lush backdrop of the Hawaiian islands, The Descendants is a heartbreaking portrait of a family in crisis.
- Liverpool Echo
As is the way with Payne's films, we go away feeling that every man is an island - and it's only a matter of time before each of us finds ourselves deserted.
Robbie Collin - Daily Telegraph
...a solid, grown-up film that reminds us that there's real heroism in simply living day to day.
Daniel M. Kimmel - New England Movies Weekly
A non-preachy exploration of the depth, width and complexity of life, love and relationships, and this great gift we call humanity.
Gary Wolcott - Tri-City Herald
The mix of slapstick and pathos is exquisitely judged, but the viewer needs to be patient for the film to work its magic. Adjust to its rhythm, though, and you'll be rewarded by a wry and perceptive view of the human comedy.
Jason Best - Movie Talk
(George) Clooney gives a complex and complete performance as a man who put his career ahead of his family, and is stumbling to try to reconnect to make his life whole again.
Bob Bloom - Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)
As is typical with Payne, awkwardness abounds leading to some moments of excruciating comedy.
David Edwards - Daily Mirror [UK]
Not as laugh-out-loud funny or as overtly moving as you might expect, but with an underlying honesty and authenticity that make the characters linger long in the memory.
Henry Fitzherbert - Daily Express
Moving, thoughtful and frequently hilarious, it's good to have Payne back.
Chris Fyvie - The Skinny
The saving notes are the film's minutiae. There are dialogue moments in Payne's drollest, enemies-on-edge style.
Nigel Andrews - Financial Times
Worth the wait. Don't stay away for so long next time though, Alex.
Adam Woodward - Little White Lies
This sweet, sad new film from Alexander Payne holds a promise of gentleness that is fulfilled, and a promise of complexity that isn't.
Warm, subtle and gentle, The Descendants demonstrates what can happen when indie talent is nurtured to mainstream success.
Andrew Collins - Radio Times
Worth seeing for the outstanding performances from George Clooney and Shailene Woodley - and a great advert for Hawaii.
Moving and blackly funny, The Descendants deals with universal emotions about the nature of family which will strike a chord with everyone
Roz Laws - Birmingham Post
The last, touching final frame is worth the entrance price alone.
Tim Evans - Sky Movies
The perfect combination of dramedy, tragedy and familiar fallouts that simultaneously brings tears of joy and sorrow, with seemingly effortless effect.
Lisa Giles-Keddie - Real.com
Clooney takes up the archetypal role of unofficial investigator, with a younger sidekick in tow. Though the film offers a fine portrait of character growth, it's allotted by the crime-themed structure of the avenger film.
Matthew Sorrento - Film International
Payne is an unobtrusive director, a filmmaker who lets the script do the walking - in this case, perhaps too much.
Dave Calhoun - Time Out
Clooney is remarkable in Alexander Payne's film about loss, confusion and getting by.
Rich Heldenfels - Akron Beacon Journal
The Descendants is a heartfelt and tragic piece, but it's also mature and very funny.
Siobhan Synnot - Scotsman
A marvellous follow-up to 2004's Sideways - well worth the wait.
Dan Jolin - Empire Magazine
Hay un humor asordinado debajo del drama de Matt King (sentida labor de George Clooney), tanto que se trata de la pelicula mas seria del director Alexander Payne hasta el momento, lo que no quiere decir la menos optimista.
Enrique Buchichio - Uruguay Total
If The Descendants occasionally slips a notch below Payne's highest standards, it's a wry, intelligent look at the contradictions and complexities of human emotions.
Philip Kemp - Total Film
Although it's not quite a black comedy, it's still filled with the patented Payne quirky characters and I love Clooney in roles like this.
Richard Knight - Knight at the Movies
Dwells on how, just beneath the surface of that teen who seems a shrugging idiot or that woman who seems an everyday mom, there rustles an undergrowth of pain, or loss, or heartache.
Brian Gibson - Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
Heartfelt and sometimes heartbreaking story about love, death, duty and responsibility
Andrew L. Urban - Urban Cinefile
Like the waves on the beautiful Hawaiian beaches, our emotions rise and fall in this splendid, emotionally rich drama in which laughter and tears are balanced on the precarious surfboard of life
Louise Keller - Urban Cinefile
For every moving or darkly comic or genuinely surprising moment, there's a cloying one close behind.
Simon Miraudo - Quickflix
The master of modern America cinema is indeed back, with a suitably understated bang.
Ed Gibbs - The Sun Herald
Hawaii's lush and luminous landscape is well appreciated, but it does nothing to mask the maddeningly irrational plot-points Payne expects us to swallow in the name of an alleged skewering social commentary.
Jordan Hiller - Bangitout.com
Director Alexander Payne's best film.
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky - Ebert Presents At The Movies
One of the ten best films of 2011.
Fr. Chris Carpenter - Movie Dearest
... All about taking things that could be salacious and sensational, and paring them down to a realistic, deeply affecting, human level.
Greg Maki - Star-Democrat (Easton, MD)
Speaking insightfully and realistically, George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller are a delight to watch.
Matthew Toomey - ABC Radio Brisbane
What a pity the artistic trust (director/co-writer Alexander Payne along with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash whose screenplay was based on Kaui Hart Hemming's novel) couldn't find a way of making the protagonist's character more sympathetic.
S. James Wegg - JWR
Becomes a human, believable and quietly moving film.
Ken Hanke - Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
A dramedy directed by the same hands that helmed "Sideways," "The Descendants" is one of the year's best movies. It's a grownup look at loss and betrayal, with terrific performances and memorable characters you'll root for, warts and all.
Linda Cook - KWQC-TV (Iowa)
...we fill in vast gaps because we know and presumably like the star. There's nothing really wrong with that, but Payne's done better work, more substantial work.
Philip Martin - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The Descendants hums along fueled by the imperfections that make us all human, while trying to uncover moments of grace and wisdom despite those imperfections.
Lori Hoffman - Atlantic City Weekly
Wants to be mature but can't help shortchanging its drama through constant reliance on its protagonist's unimpeachable nobility.
Nick Schager - Lessons of Darkness
A grown-up, emotionally complex film buoyed by Clooney's wonderfully nuanced performance.
Mike Scott - Times-Picayune
Another over praised George Clooney film.
Jackie K. Cooper - jackiekcooper.com
As ten-year-old Scottie tries to sort out the specter of her mother now, inert and silent following a water-skiing accident, she faces questions she can't begin to articulate.
Cynthia Fuchs - PopMatters
I loved watching George Clooney's character interact with everyone. I didn't care about the finished result, just the process.
Jeff Bayer - The Scorecard Review
Shining above extraordinary performances by the entire cast is Nick Krause, who had me laughing out loud uncontrollably.
Tony Medley - Tolucan Times
A dismal cacophony of turgid emotion and lame comedy.
Phil Hall - Film Threat
George Clooney, an actor who more often than not appears in exceptional projects, finds another gem in The Descendants.
John Wirt - Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)
As the morally conflicted and mentally distraught Matt King, Clooney gives what could be regarded as the most well-rounded and emotionally raw performance of his distinguished career.
Adam Tobias - Watertown Daily Times
The Descendants is a film that's honest in its emotions. It effectively presents the consequences of adultery, the sadness in death and the love which family always have for one another, even when they hate what they've done.
Matthew Pejkovic - Matt's Movie Reviews
Clooney holds his tribe together
Marty Mapes - Movie Habit
Telegraphs every emotional beat and holds the viewer's hand every step of the way, giving us the most sanitised and programmatic version of catharsis imaginable.
Tim Brayton - Antagony & Ecstasy
If there is a lighter side to Director Alexander Payne, "The Descendants" is it.
Jonathan W. Hickman - Daily Film Fix
A touching enough to recommend tale about an absentee father's belated, if bittersweet, quest for redemption.
Kam Williams - AALBC.com
If you can get past all the heart tugging, life lessons and by-the-numbers bonding, there are a handful of amusingly offbeat developments and decent laughs here.
Rick Kisonak - Film Threat
It's possible to blame the book (as it's)... despite reviewer comparisons to Roth and Updike, just a longer version of Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes.
Walter Chaw - Film Freak Central
A career-changing performance by George Clooney, playing a dad - that in of itself is a seismic shift; he's nearly always been the lothario or lone wolf - coping with his wife in a coma.
Christopher Lloyd - Sarasota Herald-Tribune
It's smart and beautifully made, but Alexander Payne had the opportunity to punch the audience in the chest, and didn't take the shot. Pity.
David Medsker - Bullz-Eye.com
Becomes more enjoyable and somehow even looser as its plot tightens, and as the hand-holding narration disappears.
John Beifuss - Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Payne manages to keep the delicate balance between these antics and the somber nature of what's happening in Matt's life.
Dan Lybarger - MovieMaker Magazine
Callng Chevy Chase. George Clooney has taken your role. The Descendants calls out for Clark Griswold and his brood -- The Griswolds in Hawaii. This time around George Clooney plays the clueless dad.
Tony Macklin - tonymacklin.net
Surprisingly warm feel good film about coping with a tragic loss.
Dennis Schwartz - Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Payne once again feels his characters' pain and this makes for something very special, an achingly sad comedy of errors.
Glenn Lovell - CinemaDope
The Descendants is beautifully shot (by Phedon Papamichael) and compellingly performed, especially by its young stars, and it has moments of startling tenderness. If only it didn't feel phony to its bones.
Kimberley Jones - Austin Chronicle
The Descendants is a wonderful film, full of nuance and beleaguered humanity.
Pete Vonder Haar - Houston Press
A large patch of the movie's social contract are the Hawaiian notions of 'aina, malama and pono. It joins the short list we aren't embarrassed to screen for malahini.
Burl Burlingame - Honolulu Star-Advertiser
A heartbreaking story with satisfying emotional payoffs, and truly beautiful Hawaiian photography.
Stephen Silver - Patch
George Clooney and Shailene Woodley are terrific as lost-soul dad and old-soul daughter in Alexander Payne's funny, thoughtful film.
Clint O'Connor - Cleveland Plain Dealer
Marked by stellar performances and an incisive screenplay, The Descendants packs a real Hawaiian punch.
Matt Brunson - Creative Loafing
The best thing here is Clooney, cleverly dropping some of his man's man mannerisms to make Matt less of an idea and more of a human.
Bill Gibron - PopMatters
Payne's movie is one more love letter to imperfection that renews my affection for the predicament of being human.
Grae Drake - Movies.com
It's smart, funny, heartbreaking, heartwarming, wise, and, despite some sad moments, genuinely optimistic. I experienced more feelings watching it than I usually get from ten movies.
Mike McGranaghan - Aisle Seat
Audiences will argue about whether it's a comedy or a drama, but they'll agree they saw a wonderful film.
Rob Thomas - Capital Times (Madison, WI)
The Descendants finds Payne, now 50, having arrived in midlife with a new maturity, eschewing solipsism and snickers for a deeper engagement with the world.
Ann Lewinson - Kansas City Star
Clooney has never been better, displaying more range and less actor-ego than ever before... The Descendants would still be a splendid movie without him; with Clooney, it's one of 2011's very best.
Steve Persall - Tampa Bay Times
Well-acted and touching with a mild eye for human foibles, this is one of the better-written films of the year.
Mark R. Leeper - Mark Leeper's Reviews
What's so special about Payne's approach in The Descendants is how acutely observed and subtle the movie is, especially since the previews are selling it as a broader, more absurd comedy.
Eric Melin - Scene-Stealers.com
If you see The Descendants, see it for Clooney (and Woodley), but don't believe the hype that it's one for the ages.
Peter Canavese - Groucho Reviews
A lot of The Descendants is affecting, but its mushier tone is often less emotionally resonant than the bitter sarcasm of Payne's earlier work.
Josh Bell - Las Vegas Weekly
This unforgettable movie succeeds by making audiences feel like a part of the family. Clooney knocks it out of the park with a marvelous performance. Woodley makes a strong bid for a supporting actress nomination. The supporting players are all given...
Keith Cohen - Entertainment Spectrum
Here's where I am right now: The Descendants is the best movie of 2011. It is the movie of the year, in many ways beyond its simple superlative overall excellence.
MaryAnn Johanson - Flick Filosopher
(Clooney) is at the top of his game in his scenes alone with the comatose Elizabeth. Asking questions that are unable to be answered, his pain at his loss and her betrayal is heartbreaking.
Michael A. Smith - MediaMikes
It's good, but far less than you'd expect from the guy who started his career with the gleefully provocative Citizen Ruth and Election.
Jeff Meyers - Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
In the hands of writer-director Alexander Payne, Clooney has rarely seemed so much at home.
Rene Rodriguez - Miami Herald
There are ample opportunities for the film to soak in pathos, righteousness, farce, or pictorialism, and Payne manages to nod at those pitfalls without falling into them.
Shawn Levy - Oregonian
An emotionally ennobling film that wears its compassion on the sleeve of its ugly Hawaiian print shirts.
Duane Dudek - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Payne displays a knack for both perfect casting and using his lead actor in sometimes unconventional, unexpected ways
James Kendrick - Q Network Film Desk
Director Alexander Payne prefers to start a movie with one strike against him. He always picks a dislikable protagonist... Then, as he slowly gives characters self-awareness, he gives us reasons to watch and care about them.
Lawrence Toppman - Charlotte Observer
In playing an everyman stranded between anger and duty, Clooney earns an emotional payoff that a lesser actor would simply demand.
Joe Williams - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
An introspective and heartwarming film, unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity.
Matt Patches - Hollywood.com
It's Clooney and Woodley's movie, as they become a team before our eyes.
Moira MacDonald - Seattle Times
I kept expecting it to get better, but it just sort of did its thing and called it a day.
Phil Villarreal - OK! Magazine
A family drama whose distinction comes primarily from its nuances and subtleties.
Harvey S. Karten - Compuserve
Director and co-writer Alexander Payne again shows the most acute and perceptive understanding of the American psyche of any current director.
Flawless in the still manner it approaches crippling encounters with grief and disgust, dryly expressing the necessary unraveling of a distracted man. The Descendents is simply terrific, profound yet understated.
Brian Orndorf - BrianOrndorf.com
Payne has a particular skill for making movie stars seem like normal people, and the resolute normalcy of the cast helps to show Hawaii not as a resort paradise, but as a place like any other where people live, work, love, and die.
Ian Buckwalter - DCist
Payne continues to live up to his name as a wry observer of modern American crises.
Eric D. Snider - EricDSnider.com
The Descendants is probably the best film of 2011.
Kelly Vance - East Bay Express
Devastating, moving dramedy about death and forgiveness.
S. Jhoanna Robledo - Common Sense Media
Writer-director Alexander Payne's fruitful collaboration with America's premier actors continues with The Descendants'.
James Verniere - Boston Herald
With a great role for a movie star, an idyllic setting and the best dialogue of the year-this might be the year's Oscar frontrunner.
Peter Paras - E! Online
"The balmy breezes and small-town intimacy of island life give "The Descendants" a leisurely tone that distinguishes it from Payne's more angry-edged work."
Alison Gang - San Diego Union-Tribune
Descendants is a good film, with strong performances and some wonderfully human, funny moments. But with a sharper screenplay, it could have come all the more closer to paradise.
Kimberly Gadette - Doddle
Payne has a gift for life's messiness, the mash-ups of pain, humor, anger, terror, and longing that collide in the midst of big moments and domestic dailiness.
Nell Minow - Beliefnet
Are you ready for a forgiving, humane Alexander Payne? He's pretty good at it, even if it's new to him.
Dave White - Movies.com
The Descendants gives George Clooney another fine role as a comfortable man shaken by the realities of life.
Norman Wilner - NOW Toronto
Payne has the ability to make something as rich and as joyous as Sideways, and The Descendants is not it.
Jeffrey M. Anderson - Combustible Celluloid
George Clooney shows up for Oscar season more reliably than Elmer Fudd shows up for the first day of Rabbit Season (or maybe that's Duck Season)
Willie Waffle - WaffleMovies.com
Even as Payne's weakest film, The Descendants is still worth seeing
George Wu - culturevulture.net
I understand Clooney is playing a detached father and husband, but there's no explanation why a financially well-off man basically without a job has no clue about his wife and children.
Diana Saenger - ReviewExpress.com
Clooney will most definitely be getting an Oscar nod for his touching, open and honest work.
Jeanne Kaplan - Kaplan vs. Kaplan
"The Descendants" has all the qualities of a special story. And it should be on the short list of Oscar's favorites.
David Kaplan - Kaplan vs. Kaplan
The Descendants has a jaunty, energetic air about it. It's just the thing to lure you into the heart of a family tragedy.
Liz Braun - Jam! Movies
Its pace is as leisurely as a day in its Hawaiian setting, which makes the lovely parts lovelier but its angsty moments even more torturous and uncomfortable.
Tricia Olszewski - Washington City Paper
It has been over seven years since Payne's last film, "Sideways," was released and the man has not lost his touch.
Robin Clifford - Reeling Reviews
In Clooney, The Descendants has a backbone of anguish and basic, human decency.
Mark Dujsik - Mark Reviews Movies
Tough, touching and unsentimental, Payne's low-key hymn to loving, losing and learning to move on is a pleasing addition to an impressive oeuvre.
In its mixture of wit, warmth, poignancy and perceptiveness, it's a worthy addition to Payne's remarkable string of winners.
Frank Swietek - One Guy's Opinion
Easily Payne's most notable work since his 1999 breakthrough "Election" and quite possibly the finest work of his entire career.
Peter Sobczynski - eFilmCritic.com
It's a picture that once again prompts the self-answering question, "Is George Clooney great, or what?"
Kurt Loder - Reason Online
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.
Mick LaSalle - San Francisco Chronicle
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.
Mark Rabinowitz - CNN.com
This is a modest marvel of a movie.
Peter Rainer - Christian Science Monitor
From beginning to end, everything that happens in "The Descendants" feels false.
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul) - St. Paul Pioneer Press
Alexander Payne has a knack for finding the humor in pain without losing heart.
Laura Clifford - Reeling Reviews
for these talented collaborators, the time is now, and The Descendants is the pinnacle of their successes
Sean O'Connell - Filmcritic.com
"Descendants" finds its footing, hitting Payne's unique note of comedy/drama, and benefits greatly from some terrific third-act appearances by actors in small but crucial supporting roles.
Gary Thompson - Philadelphia Daily News
A movie that manages to be heart-breaking and laugh-out-loud funny at the same time.
Marshall Fine - Hollywood & Fine
Clooney delivers a tender performance that makes up for him not quite looking the part. Woodley's just as good, if not better.
Matt Pais - RedEye
Payne's exploring new territory, but it also feels like he's holding himself back, attempting to evolve through repression.
Sam Adams - Philadelphia City Paper
Watching a film as mature, moving, original and unpredictable as 'The Descendants' renews my faith in American movies, and reaffirms Alexander Payne's status as one of our most gifted storytellers...
Leonard Maltin - Leonard Maltin's Picks
An ultra-polished picture in which every emotion we're supposed to feel has been cued up well in advance. There's nothing surprising or affecting about it. Not even Clooney, who works wonders with the occasional piece of dialogue, can save it.
Stephanie Zacharek - Movieline
While The Descendants isn't as sharp as Payne's earlier films, it's the rare crowd-pleasing tearjerker where the tears feel earned.
Ethan Alter - Television Without Pity
Clooney is brilliant as the emotionally jolted hero of Payne's droll yet immensely moving film. In its perfectly wrought eloquence, it may be the best film of the year.
Caryn James - James on screenS
"The Descendents" is terrific.
Stephen Whitty - Newark Star-Ledger
There are flashier directors working today, but Payne's position at the forefront of contemporary filmmaking comes from telling richly human stories filled with wit, insight and unique charm.
Geoff Berkshire - Metromix.com
Payne has mastered the knack of balancing moods and tone, leavening complex emotional moments with sometimes downright goofy humor.
Peter Keough - Boston Phoenix
As ever, Payne -- adapting a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings -- walks a fine line between caricature and compassion.
Keith Uhlich - Time Out
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.
Clooney's understated modern man is not filled with self-importance, as he learns to appreciate what is truly important in life. 'The Descendants' is pleasant if easy cinema.
Donald J. Levit - ReelTalk Movie Reviews
A masterful and emotionally rich movie about the grief of parting and the agony of separation in the life of a father whose losses lead to new and transformative connections.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat - Spirituality and Practice
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.
A quirky, methodical detour through tropical paradise.
Mark Sells - The Reel Deal
A family tragedy brings a high-powered lawyer closer to his two young daughters in this affecting and often funny comedy-drama featuring a deft star performance by George Clooney.
Kevin Lally - Film Journal International
A richly rewarding, originally conceived, at times even oddly humorous and exquisite, sensitively crafted film. And in which Clooney continues to move beyond movie star vehicles, and venture into risky roles like this bad dad, with humbling grace.
Prairie Miller - NewsBlaze
A very good movie, filled with precious, small, touching moments. I suspect that it will stay with you long after the credits fade.
Neil Rosen - NY1-TV
This movie had me the minute George Clooney, as the responsible but not particularly engaged Matt King, describes himself as the "backup parent".
Joanna Langfield - The Movie Minute
As with Sideways and About Schmidt, Payne finds clever ways to blend sharp comedy and warm drama to create a seriously involving and entertaining film.
Rich Cline - Shadows on the Wall
A kinder, gentler, less interesting Alexander Payne.
Josh Larsen - LarsenOnFilm
Emotionally engaging and frequently funny, this is a satisfying drama with a sharply written script, likeable characters and a terrific performance from George Clooney that's certain to garner some attention come Oscar time.
Matthew Turner - ViewLondon
Ed Whitfield - The Ooh Tray
It's quite literally Clooney's best performance in a while.
Charlie Lyne - Ultra Culture
No, it's not Sideways, but Alexander Payne's emotionally complex drama is hilarious and heartfelt in equal measure, boosted by a stellar turn from George Clooney.
Shaun Munro - What Culture
A grown-up, perceptive, funny film about family and responsibility, subjects rarely covered in movies except in cliched, romantic terms.
Christopher Tookey - Daily Mail [UK]
Few films have captured so perfectly our awkward reactions to grieving that may be inappropriate - or merely human.
David Gritten - Daily Telegraph
At once mellow and light, there's hardly a scene that doesn't somehow revolve around death, or other grave matters.
Jaime N. Christley - Slant Magazine
There are too many times when you are not sure whether to laugh or be doleful or squirm. For example, the grandmother with Alzheimer's who thinks she'll be visiting Queen Elizabeth. This turns into a tasteless Judd Apatow moment.
Brandon Judell - CultureCatch
A stunning tightrope act of comedy, sentimentality, drama, and the character definition that can only come from a man who has spent his life observing the complexity of the human race.
Brian Tallerico - HollywoodChicago.com
[VIDEO] Perhaps the best thing "The Descendants" has to offer is its depiction of Hawaii as a place like any other that only appears as a tropical paradise on the surface.
Cole Smithey - ColeSmithey.com
This intelligently written, beautifully photographed, intensely emotional family drama is among the best of 2011 and should earn George Clooney an Oscar nomination.
Susan Granger - SSG Syndicate
...a typically watchable yet far-from-consistent effort from the filmmaker.
David Nusair - Reel Film Reviews
A film that's as moving as it is witty and dark. It's simply terrific.
Katey Rich - CinemaBlend.com
You care for these people, who are utterly real. They also have great lines, such as 'paradise can go fuck itself.'
Anne Thompson - Thompson on Hollywood
The Hawaiian setting gives The Descendants a distinctive flavor that survives Payne's efforts to bury it in schmalz.
Noel Murray - 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.
Scott Tobias - AV Club
It's warm and human and beautifully made, and it is one more triumph in a long list of recent triumphs for George Clooney as a movie star and an actor both.
Drew McWeeny - HitFix
Another winner for Clooney and Payne. Warmly funny, and life-affirming.
Chris Bumbray - JoBlo's Movie Emporium
It's one of the year's best pictures, one to savor and think about.
Pete Hammond - Boxoffice Magazine
A drama of unusual nuance. It lingers, spawns thoughts, connections, as a great film ought.
Mark your Oscar ballots: Beautifully written, splendidly acted, Alexander Payne's new serio comedy about love, forgiveness and redemption, adds another glorious panel to an already distinguished (if still brief) career.
Emanuel Levy - EmanuelLevy.Com