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The Descendants is a 2011 dramedy film, directed by Alexander Payne and based on a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The film stars George Clooney as a Hawaii based lawyer. When his wife is in a boating accident and is left in a coma, he has to care for his daughters on his own, despite knowing little about them, while fighting a breakdown when he's told his wife's living will demands she be taken off life support. When one of his daughters reveals that his wife was cheating on him, he begins a journey with his daughters (and one of his daughter's 'friends') to find the man, partially to confront him and partially to tell him he should come say goodbye before she dies.

The film is Alexander Payne's first film since 2004's Sideways and has been extremely well received by critics, with particular praise given to Clooney's performance and the well written screenplay (partly written by Jim Rash, who knew?).

The film provides examples of:

  • Academy Award: It won Best Adapted Screenplay at the 84th Academy Awards. Much like Alexander Payne's last film.
  • Aloha Hawaii: Played with; although there's lots of beautiful scenery (it's still Hawaii), it mainly focuses on the people who actually live there, for whom life isn't always like what the tourists would expect.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Cousin Hugh is a friendly and nice guy (he's played by Beau Bridges for god's sake). He also makes it clear that if Matt doesn't sell the land, he will come after him legally. Matt even Lampshades this in his narration:

  Don't be fooled. In Hawaii some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen.

  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Blatant Lies: Several times people comment that they're sure that Elizabeth will pull through and Matt agrees even though he's been told she's being taken off life support and will die soon.
  • Comedic Sociopathy:
    • A weird example. Matt isn't intentionally cruel or unfeeling, he just literally has no idea how to connect with his kids.
    • Sid, who finds Matt's mother-in-law's dementia quite hilarious, and gets a punch in the face for the trouble. He's also not malicious, however -- just very, very stupid.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Matt encourages lots of people to visit and speak to Elizabeth while she is in the hospital, and before bringing in the kids he has one last fight with her. Played with in that Matt already knows for some time that Elizabeth's condition will not improve, and in fact will only decline as time passes, so her death is inevitable. He still publicly speaks in hopeful terms for most of the movie, mostly to avoid awkward conversations.
  • Dude, Not Funny: In-Universe example. Sid laughs uncontrollably at Elizabeth's mother's dementia. Her father eventually punches him in the face.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Sid tells Matt not to use retarded in a derogatory fashioned. He claims to have a mentally-challenged brother (although he was lying) but he's still right.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Matt is a workaholic who can't connect with his kids; Elizabeth, before her accident, cheated on Matt, was a self-absorbed adrenaline junkie (and was implied to have a lot of other problems as well); Alex drinks, used to do drugs and really get around, and has issues believing her parents, or at least her mother, don't care about her; and Scottie is involved in (at least mild) cyberbullying, has a friend who throws parties involving porn videos, and shows pictures of her mother (in a coma) to her class.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Played with; Matt angrily shouts down one of his wife's friends when she tries to justify the affair with the "she was lonely" excuse, and while it's suggested she did have sympathetic motives to some degree it's also made clear that her actions were still selfish and damaging to her family.
  • Idle Rich: Matt and his family are descended from the first white land owners of Hawaii. While Matt has left almost all of his money in a trust, the rest of his family are deep in debt and are dead set on selling the rest of the land to pay off their debts. By the end Matt has changed his mind.
  • Match Cut: Shots of the back of George Clooney's head at the big family meeting and at his wife's sickbed.
  • Not So Different: Matt has a moment like this with Sid of all people.
  • Not So Stoic: Matt is usually very calm. It makes the moments where he finally breaks all the more noticeable.
  • Please Wake Up: Matt does this in voiceover to his wife, silently promising her that he'll do everything for her if she'll just wake up.
  • Posthumous Character: Sort of.
  • Scenery Porn: Even the most basic shots are gorgeous to look at. It is Hawaii after all. (Subverted in the opening montage, with various shots of what living in Hawaii can look like.)
  • Shout-Out: At the end the family watches March Of The Penguins together. Bonus: the scene that they are watching features Morgan Freeman narrating about how Antarctica was once a tropical paradise, and slowly moved south and became covered in ice as the tectonic plates shifted. Matt and his kids live in the tropical paradise of Hawaii. Nothing lasts forever...
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: All. The. Time.
  • The Stoic: Matt.
  • Troubling Unchildhood Behavior: Scottie's friend who throws parties where she shows off her father's porn stash.
  • The Unfair Sex: Defied Trope after we learn that Elizabeth cheated on Matt.

 Kai: Your marriage...she was lonely.

Matt: So what, you're gonna go spouting cliches about women now? Nothing's ever a woman's fault, is it?

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