The Descendants

COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 55min

STARRING: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Patricia Hastie

Finding himself: Clooney

In The Ides of March, Clooney is a first-rate silver fox. The pendulum has swung to careworn as The Descendants’ Hawaii lawyer and land-owner Matt King, and small wonder: Matt’s wife, Elizabeth (Hastie), is comatose and not recovering. His 10-year-old daughter, Scottie (Miller), is a handful; her hostile 17-year-old sister, Alexandra (expressive revelation Woodley), an even bigger one. Matt is about to learn that his marriage was shot even before Elizabeth’s boating accident, and he’s attempting to work with his grabby network of cousins to close the mother of all land sales. By redefining their wobbly relationship, Matt and his girls must learn to pull together through a wasteland of loss.


The screenplay of Kaui Hart Hemmings’s novel is a heavy-duty canvas but Sideways director Alexander Payne, who co-wrote it, paints with a light and understanding touch. The family — Krause tosses in comic relief as Alex’s doofus boyfriend — is familiar from the start, with Clooney turning in a tremendous, ardent portrayal of a man growing into himself. And the island of Oahu is a lush piece of paradise, suffusing their journey with music and light.