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The Descendants [2011] [R] - 5.4.7



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
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A Hawaii lawyer (George Clooney), whose family owns a billion-dollar plot of land, is dealt a traumatic emotional blow when his wife becomes comatose after a boating accident and he also discovers that she had been unfaithful. He tries to begin rebuilding his relationship with his two daughters while deciding whether to keep his land unspoiled or sell it to developers. Also with Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Patricia Hastie, Beau Bridges and Matthew Lillard. Directed by Alexander Payne. [1:55]

SEX/NUDITY 5 - A girl selects "Adult Movies" from a menu on a TV and we see three movie posters scroll across the screen featuring well-endowed women in suggestive poses.
 A girl tells her father, teen sister and a teen boy that she had watched a pornographic movie at her friend's house, that the girl's father watched them frequently, and that the two girls had invited boys over to watch them and see if they "grew down there" and that one had; the teen girl and father are horrified and the teen boy makes a joke about the girl.
 We see a teen girl lying on her stomach, sunbathing with her string bikini top untied and her bare back visible and she ties her top back on as her father approaches. We see a girl wearing a bra and brief-style underwear, a teen girl shouts at the girl, telling her to take off her underwear and the girl then mockingly poses and slaps her behind. Throughout the movie we see people of all ages and both genders in bathing suits: Women are seen wearing bikini-style bathing suits, teen boys and men are seen while wearing bathing trunks, a teen girl's cleavage is visible when she wears string bikinis on multiple occasions and a girl wears a bikini. A teen girl is seen wearing extremely short shorts and a woman wears a very low-cut, cleavage exposing dress (she is obviously not wearing undergarments). We see a man wearing boxers and a T-shirt.
 A husband kisses his comatose, dying wife, on the lips briefly. A man grabs a woman as she moves to kiss him on the cheek and he kisses her lips. A teen girl rubs a teen boy's face, and the teen girl's father shouts at them, telling them to stop touching; the teen boy responds that he is not surprised the man's wife had cheated on him, since he is uptight.
 A man shouts at his young daughter after he sees her using sand stuffed in her bikini top to give the appearance of cleavage; the girl tells her father that it is her "beach boobs." A man shouts at his teen daughter and a teen boy for allowing his younger daughter to put sand in her swimsuit top, the teen boy remarks that the cleavage "is kinda fattyish" and the girl goes to wash out her top.
 We hear a phone conversation between a man and an unseen woman and the woman explains that the man's young daughter was teasing her daughter for developing pubic hair. A teen girl shouts at a man, using crude language, to accuse him of having sex with her mother. A man tells another man that he had an affair with the man's wife, but it had been "just sex"; the man asks the other man if he had been in his bedroom and he confirms that he had. A teen girl explains to her father that she had seen her mother with another man and the man's hand was on her behind; the teen girl explains that she had confronted her mother about having an affair and that she initially denied it, but then admitted to cheating. A woman tells a man that his wife had been involved in an adulterous affair. A woman tells a man that she had figured out that her husband had been involved in an adulterous affair with the man's wife. A man's voiceover explains that he worries about his teen daughter's problems with "older men" but does not elaborate. A teen boy asks a man if he is "checking on him" when the man awakens in the middle of the night to see where the boy is sleeping – the teen boy implies that he and the man's teenage daughter are not sexually involved. An older man makes an off-handed comment that he thinks his son might be gay. A teen girl calls another girl a crude anatomical term and instructs another girl to call her that too; the teen girl shouts that the girl will "be used by guys" later in life. An older man scolds a man for not providing his daughter with "thrills at home," which is why she had to participate in dangerous sports. We briefly hear clips of stories that a man tells his children about their mother, including that she had gone streaking and when they had met she had taken his breath away.
 A teen boy hugs a man; the man pulls away and tells the boy "never do that again." A teen girl and teen boy hug. Men and women kiss in greeting.

VIOLENCE/GORE 4 - Throughout the movie we see numerous, up-close shots of a comatose woman lying in a hospital bed with a tracheotomy tube hooked up to her throat (we see a small amount of blood on the gauze surrounding the tube) and IVs and machines hooked up to her arms (she has bruises on her hands and her face is hallow); the woman is later seen with the tracheotomy and IVs removed and a piece of gauze (a small amount of blood is seen oozing through it) is placed on her throat over the missing flesh (she is fully comatose and non-responsive).
 A man explains to his teenage daughter that her comatose mother is going to be removed from life support, per her living will, and continues by saying, "We're letting her go"; the teen girl cries. A woman explains to a girl that the girl's mother is going to be removed from life support and will soon die; we see the girl cry as she is comforted by her father. A doctor explains to a man that his wife is in an irreversible coma and that her body is degenerating; the doctor implies that the woman had a living will and that he will have to remove her life support due to her poor quality of life in her current comatose state. A man asks a doctor how long a woman will live and the doctor explains that once life support is removed she will have a limited amount of time. A doctor makes a remark about "ensuring organs are okay for donation" when discussing a woman being removed from life support. A man tells a crowd of people that his comatose wife is to be removed from life support and that people need to make their final goodbyes. A man tells another man that his wife is dying, after being removed from life support. A man explains to a woman that his comatose wife will die shortly since she had been removed from life support. We see a woman applying makeup to a comatose woman, the woman asks a man (the comatose woman's husband) how she is doing, and the man explains that they are hoping for the best and "keeping the organs and kidneys healthy."
 An older man tells a teen boy, "I am going to hit you now," he punches the boy, the boy falls to the ground and we later see his eye swollen and it later develops into a black eye. A teen girl shouts at her comatose mother, and the girl's father shouts at the girl and appears to spank her (we do not see the actually impact); the girl is horrified and shouts at the man, asking if he had spanked her. A girl runs out of the sea and shouts at her father that something had bit her (she appears unharmed).
 An older man angrily accuses a man of allowing his adult daughter (the man's wife) to get in a deadly boating accident; a teen girl and teen boy shout at the older man in the man's defense. An older man shouts at a man, saying that he knows his daughter had not wanted people to "sit around and watch her spoil," in reference to her having a living will to remove life support. A man angrily whispers and shouts at his comatose wife and throws a stuffed teddy bear against a wall. A woman tearfully shouts at a woman in a coma. A teen girl shouts at her father. A man shouts at a woman, causing her to cry. A man overhears another man and a woman shouting; the woman tells the man that she and her husband were having a fight. A teen boy laughs cruelly at an elderly woman with dementia and this upsets an older man, a man and his daughter. A man shouts that a woman had been "putting lipstick on a corpse." A teen boy tells a man that his father had been killed in a drunk driving accident and that both he and the other driver had been drunk. A teen boy tells a man that the man's teen daughter will "get even worse" after her mother dies (relating to the fact that his father died in a drunk driving accident). As a man sits in his comatose wife's hospital room, we hear his voiceover say, "Urine bags, tracheotomy tubes and IVs" are now his life. A man crudely tells a woman and a man that his comatose wife was "dead" and was going to be removed from life support. We infer from a conversation between two men that one of the men had been responsible for the boating accident that put the other man's wife in a coma; the man tries to calm the husband, who is visibly upset by saying that he had almost drowned in the accident and the comatose woman's daughter runs from the room, crying. A woman instructs a girl to apologize to the woman's daughter after she explains that the girl had teased her and said that she did not want to participate in a rock climbing exercise with her because she was "afraid to fall into her buttc***k." A teen boy makes a rude joke that he wishes mentally handicapped people and the elderly "would just hurry up" and we see a man is visibly upset by the teen boy's joke. A teen girl asks her father why he wants her help to tell people that her mother is dying. A teen girl asks her father if he would punch a man when he met him, and he responds no. A teen boy asks a man if an older man frequently punches people, and the man tells the teen boy that the older man had punched him "a few times." A teen boy half-jokingly tells a man that he would place a man's genitals in a spiked bag and beat the bag. A man explains that "cancer is just as fatal" to people in Hawaii. A man tries to convince himself that his wife will make it out of a coma. A man asks a girl how her grandmother is doing and the girl explains that her grandmother is "not well" after getting an infection from stomach surgery. A man asks his daughter why she had taken photographs of her comatose mother, the girl tells the man that she is an artist and that another artist had taken photos of her mother as she was dying and the man responds that her mother is not dying, she's just very sick. We hear parts of stories that a man tells his children about their mother, including that a shark had attacked her.
 Throughout the movie people ask a man about the health status of his comatose wife, including: A girl asks her father if he believes her mother will be the same after she awakens from a coma and the man changes the subject without answering; a man tells the man (in front of the man's daughter), that he had been encouraged when he went to visit the comatose woman and he thought he saw her hand move and the woman's husband angrily shouts at him; a man tells a woman that his wife had been in a boating accident and that she had hit her head "a little too hard" and was now in the hospital; and relatives of the man ask how his wife is doing, offering support and saying that she is strong and will recover from the coma.
 A man flips through a photo album filled with photographs of his wife that's in a coma (we see photographs from different angles of the comatose woman, with a tracheotomy tube coming from her throat and in some photographs we see IVs in her arm and bruises on her face); two women (teachers) explain that the man's daughter had presented the album as a class project and that it had upset children and parents.
 We see a girl tossing lawn chairs into a pool. A man, his young daughter and teenage daughter watch a nature special (we do not see the TV set) as a narrator explains that evolution had killed almost all creatures from an area.

PROFANITY 7 - About 22 F-words and its derivatives, an eight-year-old girl uses an obscene hand gesture on two occasions, 10 scatological terms (1 mild), 18 anatomical terms (2 mild), 3 sexual references, 11 mild obscenities, 5 derogatory terms for mentally handicapped (a teen boy makes a crude joke, asking a man not to use a derogatory term for the mentally handicapped, saying "my brother is retarded" but then laughs and says he is joking), name-calling (spoiled and entitled, bums and stuntmen, dope, freak, complete spaz, mind reader, Neanderthal, liar, motherless w*ore, selfish, idiot, half pipe, lost your mind, h*ebag, meth head, extremely articulate, dumb, creepy), exclamations (shut up), 4 religious profanities, 4 religious exclamations. [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - A teen boy tells a man that he "always has weed" (no drugs are seen). Several teen girls are caught intoxicated and when the father of one of them asks her the following morning if she is "hung over" she explains that she was drunk but no longer drinking excessively, a girl tells a teen girl to tell their comatose mother that the teen girl had been drunk the previous night and "might be an alcoholic," throughout the movie we see men and women drinking alcoholic beverages at parties and bars, a woman offers a man a glass of wine, a man buys another man a cocktail at a bar, a man shouts at another man to "go back to his beer," a man discusses that people think everyone is "drinking Mai Tais all day," an eight-year-old girl wears a T-shirt that reads: "I'm still drunk from last night," and a man's voiceover questions his wife's drinking and his daughter's issues with drugs. We see a man in the background of a party scene smoking a cigar.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Infidelity, family conflicts, loss of a parent, disappointment, drug and alcohol abuse, coping with loss, land use, comas.

MESSAGE - Forgiveness can be extremely difficult but is necessary to be able to move on.

(Note: A teen girl and a girl are responsible for a majority of the profanity, including the eight year old girl using crude anatomical terms after being instructed to do so by her teenage sister. A woman warns a teen girl that she could be expelled from a school for crude language and a man remarks to his daughters that they do not respect him as is obvious by their crude language. A man tells his teen daughter to not use profanity around her younger sister and the girl remarks that she does not care.)

Special Keywords: S5 - V4 - P7 - MPAAR

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A CAVEAT: We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and some of our early standards were not as stringent as they are now. We therefore need to revisit many older reviews, especially those written prior to 1998 or so; please keep this in mind if you're consulting a review from that period. While we plan to revisit and correct older reviews our resources are limited and it is a slow, time-consuming process.

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