A downbeat George Clooney shines in Alexander Payne's wry, restrained Descendants
These are small quibbles, anyway. The Descendants is hardly The Tree of Life — yay — but its reined-in observations of odd yet relatable adult and family lives are all the more satisfying for lack of grandiose ambition. There are moments here when Payne's restraint itself is a thing of beauty, like a discreet late cut to some landscape shots where shameless tearduct-milking would normally go. The oil-and-water seriocomedy of a well-intentioned recent movies like 50/50 reveals how tricky this director's customary feat really is, of making the serious and the comic blend together seamlessly.
THE DESCENDANTS opens Fri/18 in San Francisco.