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The Descendants

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The Descendants

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
Cinematography Phedon Papamichael
Edited by Kevin Tent
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 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.


Matthew "Matt" King (Honolulu-based attorney and the sole trustee of a family trust of 25,000 pristine acres on Kauai island. The land has great monetary value, but is also a family legacy. While Matt has always 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 tens 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 (Amara Miller) who seeks attention by bullying other children, and 17-year-old Alex (Shailene Woodley) who has been in drug rehab. 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 that Elizabeth was having an affair at the time of the accident, causing a major rift between mother and daughter.

Two close family friends tell Matt that Elizabeth was unhappy and wanted to leave him for her lover, Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard), a real estate agent. After Matt arranges for friends to bid Elizabeth goodbye, he decides Speer should also have an opportunity. He and the girls, and also Alex's slacker friend Sid (Nick Krause), travel to Kauai to find Brian. While there, Matt's cousin, Hugh (Beau Bridges) mentions that Brian is brother-in-law to Don Hollitzer, the developer the family wants to sell the land to. Brian stands to make a small fortune from the sales commission.

Matt confronts Brian and informs him Elizabeth is dying and offers him an opportunity to see her one last time. Brian declines, admitting that although Elizabeth was in love with him, it was only a fling to him; he loves his wife, Julie (Judy Greer) and their children, then apologizes to Matt for the pain he caused.

When Elizabeth is disconnected from life support, her father, Scott (Robert Forster) admonishes Matt for not being a more generous and loving husband. Matt agrees, but Sid and Alex both 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 different solution to the problem posed by the Rule Against Perpetiuies. Shocked, Hugh tells Matt that he and the other cousins will take legal action if Matt refuses to sell, but Matt is undeterred.

Matt finally comes to terms with his wife's betrayal and her impending death. He tenderly kisses her goodbye, followed by Alex and Scottie, and later, scatter Elizabeth's ashes in the ocean off Waikiki. The film concludes with the three at home sitting together sharing ice cream and watching television, all wrapped in the decorative blanket Elizabeth had been lying in.



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

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