To be honest, the hype surrounding The Descendants is really confusing. It's alright, I guess, but nothing special.
The film has two hours to deal with a lot of harsh subjects that can't even be addressed in one film and have a satisfying conclusion. If there had been another half-hour, I might've at least felt satisfied with an ending. But in truth, I was quite ready for the film to be done with by about the half way point.
When George Clooney lets that little convincing tear roll down his cheek, I was about ready to hit stop. The melodrama was a little too much for me to enjoy. It was just getting too big.
The only thing I thought was fresh and new was the setting. Hawaii has probably never been featured in such a tragic drama. The cinematography and location were fantastic, so props to those guys. But I couldn't really get into the rest of it. I just felt very meh by the end of the movie. It was a by-the-numbers drama that definitely didn't deserve the hype it got in my opinion.
In fact, if you took out George Clooney and Shailene Woodley (who by the way is actually excellent) and replace them with more mediocre actors, you'd probably have some kind of crazy Lifetime movie.
Proceed with caution.