Alexander Payne is a consistently great movie maker, and The Descendants is, in my experience, one of his best. Always adept at examining the misgivings of men who are adrift in lives of relative comfort, our hero is forced to deal with a wealth of issues, both personal and professional, all at the same time, and we follow him through his struggles to accept what he can't change and preserve what he has. Clooney is fantastic in the lead role, definitely one of his finest performances. I've always found him to be at his funniest when he fauxs interest in people he clearly couldn't care less about. He has this fantastically bitter look in his eye and a sense of humour that, even during his most emotional moments, allows him to pull a funny quip or expression right out of the blue and instantly lighten the mood. Much like Jack Nicholson in Payne's 'About Schmidt', Clooney isn't a man without emotions, he just has trouble understanding them, both other peoples and his own. A movie of this subject matter could easily have, ahem, descended into mawkish sentimentality in order to hammer in its points, but this movie takes a light-hearted, often very matter-of-fact but still poignant approach, addressing often heart-breaking issues with common sense deduction and without undue histrionics. It's a fairly slow film, often seeming to halt entirely at times, but what it lacks in pace it more than makes up for in wit, character and heart.