starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Judy Greer
screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings
directed by Alexander Payne
by Walter Chaw George Clooney is great, Alexander Payne is great, it's all very predictably great, and it's all so very predictable. The Descendants, Payne's fifth film, is an edgeless and anti-satirical adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings's novel that has its moments, all of them involving Clooney's Matt King shouting at his vegetable wife (Patricia Hastie, in the most thankless non-Michael Bay role of the year) in articulation of the mid-life emasculation opera in which Payne specializes. Armed with a voiceover to better seduce Oscar voters and awards-season audiences, The Descendants opens with Matt promising his comatose spouse that he'll be a better man and commit to a normal life with her, and then it proceeds to be nothing much more than a sitcom about what happens when a confirmed bachelor is forced to become the primary caregiver to his two sassy daughters. Eldest is reform-school girl Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), who used to have a drug problem and currently has a stupid boyfriend, Sid (Nick Krause). Her younger sister is little Scottie (Amara Miller), who says things like "motherless whore" because it's funny when a 10-year-old says things like that--even funnier when the matinee idol playing her bumfuddled dad does the dimwit surprise thing he did in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. That's the theory, anyway.