The Descendents

Rated 5.0

George Clooney plays Matt King, a Hawaiian businessman, soon-to-be-widowed father of two troubled daughters and head of a clan whose roots in Hawaii go back to the 19th century. He’s a mild sort of take-charge guy who’s also a bit of a clueless doofus. Writer-director Alexander Payne puts Clooney/King at the center of things here, but the center in this case is always part of a larger and ever more entangled situation: King’s comatose and dying wife, the sorrows and travails of the two young daughters, the belated discovery of the wife’s infidelity, and the impending sale of virgin wilderness that has belonged to the King clan for more than a century. It’s the stuff of soap opera and tragic melodrama, but Payne and company enliven and complicate all that by taking it in yet another direction—toward the comedy of contemporary middle-class manners. Each of the story’s plot strands involves a test of regions of King’s character that he has heretofore neglected, and the zig-zag path of his quirky integrity is comically crucial but never independent of the tougher issues involved. Cinemark 14. Rated R