Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, Beau Bridges
With ringing critical endorsements, Golden Globes wins and talk of Oscars for George Clooney, The Descendants opens in cinemas.
Based on a book by Kaui Hart Hemmings, Clooney stars as Hawaiian lawyer Matt King. King's been an absent father to his two daughters and somewhat distant in his marriage - but after his wife's put into a coma following a powerboating accident, he's forced to abandon his role as the "back up parent" and step up to the plate.
But that's not all - King's the descendant of some of Hawaii's founders and as sole trustee, he's facing the life altering choice of whether to sell thousands of acres of land and change the island's future.
All of that takes a back seat though when he discovers his wife was having an affair.
With the help of his rebellious teen daughter Alex (a brilliant star making turn from Shailene Woodley, star of TV2's Secret Life of the American Teenager), Matt sets out to meet the man who was involved with his wife...
The Descendants is one of those films which is funny, heartwarming, and a totally unexpected gem.
With a deftly amusing script and some very wry moments, it really works astonishingly well.
George Clooney rightly deserves Oscar buzz for his charming yet vulnerable, angry, emotive and restrained turn as weary land baron Matt King. He's on a career best here and mightily impressive throughout - despite being clad in some quite hideous Hawaiian shirts. A scene where he rails at his coma ridden wife conveys all the frustration, heartbreak and anger you'd expect in a film like this where the complicated threads pull together in a tight tapestry of tragedy.
If Clooney's good, co-star Shailene Woodley is his equal; initially just a rebellious teen, she peels back the layers on the complexity of a 17 year old who's faced with her mum dying and delivers such a nuanced performance that it rises from what could have been your archetypal mopey teen.
That's the thing with The Descendants; it defies your initial expectations of yet another dysfunctional family road trip film - it manages to deliver something which is incredibly emotive, has beautifully rich deadpan storytelling and is unexpectedly funny too.