Director Alexander Payne's The Descendants is a star vehicle for George Clooney. Here Clooney portrays a Hawaiin father who must deal with pulling the plug on his wife in acoma whilst trying to learn how to take care of his two daughters and learning at the same time his wife was having an affair. All just peachy. The brilliance of Clooney's performance shines in his ability to make the transitions from his character, Matt King's dealings with his wife dying and caring for his daughters to him hunting for the man his wife was seeing on the side. By handling these transitions so deftly, Clooney and Payne manage to evoke humor and pathos in these moments, just as it very often emerges in real life, and it is always believable. It can be seen in Clooney's eyes when a line or action triggers his change in emotion, such as when he follows the man home and learns that he has a wife and kids, there is a noticable reaction due to this visual trigger. Of course, Clooney gets stellar support from the acting ensemble, in particular his potty-mouthed seventeen-year-old, played authentically by Shailene Woodley. While the resolution drags, resolving the major conflicts a touch too early, the emotions on display here are so real that Alexander Payne's deglamorization of the Hawaain lifestyle never fails to keep one watching.
I give The Descendants an A!