The Descendants

The Descendants
A man looking over his shoulder at the beach behind him, two people standing in the distance by the water.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlexander Payne
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onThe Descendants
by Kaui Hart Hemmings
CinematographyPhedon Papamichael
Edited byKevin Tent
Ad Hominem Enterprises
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • September 10, 2011 (2011-09-10) (TIFF)
  • November 18, 2011 (2011-11-18) (United States[1])
Running time
115 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[3]
Box office$177.2 million[4]

The Descendants is a 2011 American comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne. The screenplay by Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The film stars George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, 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 won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and two Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture – Drama and Best Actor – Drama for Clooney.


Matthew "Matt" King is a Honolulu-based attorney and the sole trustee of a family trust of 25,000 pristine acres on Kauai. 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 hundreds 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 who seeks attention by bullying other children, and 17-year-old Alex who has a history of substance abuse and is away at a private boarding school on the Big Island. 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 she caught Elizabeth having an affair before 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, 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 boyfriend Sid, travel to Kauai to find Brian. While there, Matt's cousin Hugh mentions that Brian is brother-in-law to Don Hollitzer, the developer to whom the family wants to sell the land. 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 and that he loves his wife Julie and their children, then apologizes to Matt for the pain he caused.

When Elizabeth is disconnected from life support, her father Scott admonishes Matt for not being a more generous and loving husband. Choosing not to disclose the details of her affair to Scott, 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 perpetuities. Shocked, Hugh tells Matt that he and the other cousins will take legal action if Matt refuses to sell, but Matt is undeterred.

After learning of Brian's affair with Elizabeth and realizing that he will not visit, Julie comes to the hospital. She tearfully admits to Elizabeth that she wants to hate her for "trying to destroy" her family, but that she forgives her. Matt finally comes to terms with his wife's betrayal and her impending death. He kisses her goodbye, followed by Alex and Scottie, and later, they scatter Elizabeth's ashes in the ocean off Waikiki. Later, the three are at home sitting together sharing ice cream and watching television, all wrapped in the Hawaiian quilt Elizabeth had been lying in.

Other Languages
asturianu: The Descendants
български: Потомците
Ελληνικά: Οι Απόγονοι
فارسی: زادگان
Fiji Hindi: The Descendants
français: The Descendants
한국어: 디센던트
հայերեն: Հետևորդները
Bahasa Indonesia: The Descendants
italiano: Paradiso amaro
עברית: היורשים
latviešu: Pēcteči
македонски: Потомци (филм)
Bahasa Melayu: The Descendants
Nederlands: The Descendants
português: Os Descendentes
română: Descendenții
русский: Потомки
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: The Descendants
українська: Нащадки (фільм)
Tiếng Việt: Tình thân (phim)