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The Descendants Review Critics


Dave White Profile

A less painful Payne. Read full review


Grae Drake Profile

Mahalo, Mr. Payne Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    It's a precarious balance, but Payne blends wit and poignancy so artfully it feels like an exquisitely choreographed dance.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    Another beautifully chiseled piece of filmmaking - sharp, funny, generous, and moving.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Rarely has a contemporary movie taken in so much life and revealed it with such depth of feeling.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    After a five-year wait since "Sideways," Alexander Payne has made his best film yet with The Descendants. Ostensibly a study of loss and coping with a tragic situation, this wonderfully nuanced look at a father and two daughters dealing with the imminent death of his wife and their mother turns the miraculous trick of possibly being even funnier than it is moving.

    Read Full Review

  • See all The Descendants reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 16+

Devastating, moving dramedy about death and forgiveness.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this quietly powerful George Clooney dramedy from the director of Election and Sideways careens between dark and light moments in a snap -- and some of the dark moments are really dark. Because of this heaviness and the movie's mature subject matter (death, infidelity), The Descendants is too much for younger teens and tweens, even though the cast prominently features a 10-year-old (who cusses) and her older teen sister (played by The Secret Life of the American Teenager's Shailene Woodley). There's also a fair amount of swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and some underage drinking, including one scene in which a teen girl is caught drunk.

  • Families can talk about The Descendants' messages. What is it saying about family? About the role of fathers? Are the characters intended to be role models?
  • How does the movie portray underage drinking? Are the consequences realistic?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: Although the movie presents families as murky, dysfunctional messes, it's also saying that even the smallest sliver of forgiveness has a way of illuminating the dark. And when things get overwhelming, ride them out -- just be, and you'll find equilibrium soon.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Though Matt confesses to being an absent father, when tragedy strikes, he really does show up for his kids. He's also quite forgiving of his wife and of others and refuses to dwell on whatever breaks his heart.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: A woman lies in a coma after a boating accident, and there are plenty of close-ups of her at the hospital that could be upsetting for younger viewers. A man screams at his wife and at a couple; a daughter bickers with her father. A grandfather punches a high-schooler.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Revelations of infidelity and discussions about halted sex lives. A man kisses another man's wife.

  • language false4

    Language: Tweens, teens, and adults swear frequently, including "f--k," and make gestures that pretty much say the same thing. Also: "damn," "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," "bitch," "prick," "hell," "ass," "crap," "goddamn," "oh my God," and more.

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: References to a teenager having trouble with drugs and alcohol. Her father and a school official catch her drunk on a beach. Social drinking in pubs and at parties.