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The Descendants

Clooney is superb, occasionally breaking from his character's boring persona for moments of slapstick.

Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley
****

Amid all the talk of Golden Globes and Academy Awards, it's sometimes easy for the film itself to be lost amid the headlines. Somewhere beneath the numerous layers of Oscar speculation that coated Payne's The Descendants, before it received five nominations this week, lies a mature family drama reflecting on grief and betrayal.

Clooney plays Matt King, a wealthy Hawaiian lawyer and the trustee of a coastal paradise he is selling to a developer on behalf of his extended family.

His wife, who we learn had a water-skiing accident, lies in a coma, and King must prepare his two daughters for the worst. But the plot thickens when it is revealed that she had been unfaithful and, aided by his troublesome teenage Alexandra (Woodley), he sets off to find the other man.

Payne's depiction of the Hawaiian gentry is often comical, with rooms filled with loud shirts bickering over an inheritance they didn't work for.

Clooney is superb, occasionally breaking from his character's weary, almost boring, persona for moments of slapstick, in particular a scene of him in an ungainly run down a hill in a pair of moccasins. While there are criticisms Alexandra's switch from tearaway to devoted daughter seems to happen overnight it's a worthwhile follow-up to Sideways, even if it did take seven years to come.

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