Heartbreak in Paradise

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), January 27, 2012 | Go to article overview

Heartbreak in Paradise


GOOD things come to those who wait and it's been an agonising seven years since writer-director Alexander Payne ventured to the sun-dappled vineyards of the quirky Oscar-winning comedy Sideways.

He has directed a couple of short films and a TV pilot in the interim but Payne's distinctive voice has been silent for too long.

Thankfully, the acclaimed debut novel of Kaui Hart Hemmings has wooed the film-maker back into the director's chair, working from a beautifully crafted script by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

Set against the lush backdrop of the Hawaiian islands, The Descendants is a heartbreaking portrait of a family in crisis.

The film provides George Clooney with the role of his career and the handsome star elegantly navigates choppy emotional waters as a father who must turn off his wife's life support machine while dealing with the grief of his two children.

The scene in which his character prepares to give the final order to doctors, kissing his beloved on the forehead and whispering, "Goodbye my love, my pain", as a single tear rolls down his cheek, is sublime.

An Oscar next month would be a fitting reward.

Matthew King (Clooney) stares forlornly at his adrenaline-junkie wife Liz (Patricia Hastie) as she lies in a vegetative state after a water-skiing accident.

Doctors tell him there is no hope of recovery and everyone should say their farewells.

With a heavy heart, Matthew bravely gathers together his 10-year-old daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious 17-year-old daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley).

The older child stopped talking to her mother shortly before the accident and it transpires that Alex discovered Liz was having an affair with real estate agent Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard). …

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