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The Descendants: movie review
Release date: 27 January 2012
Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges
What's the story?
Honolulu lawyer Matt King (Clooney) is forced to care for his two children after their mother has a serious water-skiing accident. To make matters worse, he learns she was cheating...
What did we think?
Though not as memorable as some of its director's previous successes, this portrait of a family in crisis boasts spectacular locations, a script that deftly balances humour and tragedy and one of Clooney's finest performances to date. Yet as touched as you'll be, you might feel ever so slightly manipulated.
America's 50th state hasn't been seen all that often in the movies; indeed, were it not for Hawaii Five-O and Magnum PI it might have no profile at all. Alexander Payne's The Descendants might go some way to putting it on the cinematic map and could do much to boost the tourist trade. Which is odd, since it revolves around a man coming to terms with his comatose wife's imminent death while trying to bond with a pair of daughters he has had little to do with for most of their lives.
Throw in a mission to find his wife's secret lover and the pressing need to decide the fate of a virgin swathe of undeveloped land and you have a lot of matters for George Clooney's harassed hero to worry about.
Over the course of a leisurely 114 minutes, though, he comes to realise where his real priorities lie with the help of his daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), a 17-year-old tearaway who proves to be old beyond her years.
Moving and elegant if a little bit calculated, The Descendants isn't Payne's strongest film but should still go home with an Oscar or two. Make room on your mantelpiece, George.
Verdict: No Payne, no gain.
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