The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)

What's it about? After his wife is left in a vegetative coma by a boating accident, Hawaiian lawyer Matt King (George Clooney) finds his life thrown into turmoil. As he comes to terms with the decision to switch off her life support, he faces up to some hard truths about his relationship with her and his two daughters.

Is it any good? "Hey!", this tells us, "Smart, rich, successful, good-looking people who live in Hawaii can have problems too!" I suppose so, but at least you can have problems in comfort. Apologies for being cynical, but all this chat of the film playing down the Hawaiian idyll and Clooney's looks is a bit much - they both looked pretty good to me. Anyhow, the film is a gentle enough meditation on a man's re-evaluation of the important things in life as his wife lies dying. It tackles themes of family (both past and present), relationships and death in a low-key manner, which is all watchable enough, even if it never really hits the emotional high notes and plays out a bit too smoothly in the end. Clooney, for so long the front-runner in the 2012 Best Actor Oscar race before losing out to Jean Dujardin, is fine in the lead, but the real star turn is Shailene Woodley as the stroppy teenage daughter who finds some measure of maturity from the difficult situation she finds herself in. It all ambles along like a nice walk on the beach, but it does feel like all the spikier comedy/drama elements of Payne's previous work (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways) have been softened, which is a pity as it leaves it a bit, well, soft. Nice soundtrack of Hawaiian music, though - hard to beat a bit of ukelele playing.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Massive reception for it amongst critics, and comes festooned with awards, but the praise is slightly perplexing. Always nice to see a mature piece of human drama in the movies, but both Payne and Clooney have done much better work.

What does the Fonz think? Hawaii Grieve-O.

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