Review | The Descendants

Credit: Merie Wallace

Opens: Wednesday 11/16

Us Rating: ****

The best picture Oscar front-runner has arrived. This eloquently moving film starts as Hawaii-based lawyer Matt King (George Clooney) learns that his wife, comatose from a boating accident, will not recover. The self-described "understudy" parent is daunted by the prospect of taking the lead in raising his sharp-tongued daughters, teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller).

What transpires is a beautifully crafted redemptive journey that mixes comedy and pathos. As he hones his paternal skills, Matt finds out his wife had an affair and confronts the other man -- all while overseeing the sale of land that's been in his family for generations. It's a rich role, and Clooney rises to the challenge (hope he has mantel space!). With a head full of gray hair and a surf-shop wardrobe, he carries the weight of Matt's problems in his eyes, posture and weary voice. But thanks to a heart-felt story, every actor -- from the very impressive Woodley to Judy Greer (as a betrayed spouse) -- has a moment to shine. For a movie about ordinary people, this one is extraordinary.