The Descendants

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Say the phrase "an Alexander Payne movie starring George Clooney" quietly to yourself. Now imagine the movie that just played in your head when you uttered that phrase. Chances are good that, for better or worse, it will strongly resemble this actual Payne-Clooney collaboration, in which the star plays a sad-sack Hawaiian businessman forced to deal with a hospitalized, comatose wife and two very estranged daughters. The director adheres to his usual blend of graceful pathos and empathetic cringe-comedy, while the actor injects just enough charisma into his hangdog everyguy to make him ever-so-screen heroic. You just wish that The Descendants actually soared off their mutual strengths instead of merely meeting expectations as a better-than-decent familial-bonding drama.—DF

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New York Film Festival 2011

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