In his first film since the Oscar-winning Sideways, writer-director Alexander Payne once again proves himself a master of the kind of smart, sharp, deeply felt comedy that was once the hallmark of Billy Wilder and Jean Renoir. Based on the bestselling novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants stars George Clooney as Matt King, the heir of a prominent Hawaiian land-owning family whose life is turned upside-down when his wife is critically injured in a boating accident. Accustomed to being “the back-up parent,” King suddenly finds himself center stage in the lives of his two young daughters (excellent newcomers Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller), while at the same time being forced to decide the fate of a vast plot of unspoiled land his family has owned since the 1860s. Rooted in Clooney’s beautifully understated performance, Payne’s film is an uncommonly perceptive portrait of marriage, family and community, suffused with humor and tragedy and wrapped in a warm human glow. –NYFF
Constantine Alexander Payne (born February 10, 1961) is an American film director and screenwriter. His films are noted for their dark humour and satirical depictions of contemporary American society.
Payne, a Greek American (his grandfather’s family name was Anglicized from Papadopoulos), was born in Omaha, Nebraska to parents who were restaurant owners. He was the youngest of three sons and grew up in the same neighborhood as billionaire Warren Buffett. Payne attended Creighton Preparatory School high school and later Stanford University, where he double majored in Spanish and History. As a part of his Spanish degree, he studied at the University of Salamanca (Spain). Payne got his MFA in 1990 from the UCLA Film School.
Payne worked in various capacities on films and television before he wrote and directed his first full-length film Citizen Ruth in 1995. His film Election, starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon, which takes aim at politics… read more
In my opinion, The Descendants, represents the best of Alexander Payne's work. At its core its a family film, but one based on building genuine relationships and real personal intrigue, while staying away from camp and cliches. Its screenplay and dialogue are so crucial to understanding the characters played by George Clooney and Shailene Woodley, who develop their father/daughter story in a natural unforced way.
Hugo and The Artist lead, but there are also a few surprises here.
The Artist leads. Conspicuous in their total absence: Melancholia and The Tree of Life.
The Artist leads with six; The Help and The Descendants each score five.
Runner-Up: The Tree of Life, for which Terrence Malick wins Best Director.
Best Film, Director and Use of Music. The Tree of Life scores Cinematography and, at least in part, Breakthrough Performer.
The runner-up here, with three mentions, is clearly The Descendants.
The third round of reviews ranges from mild disappointment to whole-hearted endorsement.
This round, we’re not seeing reviews as enthusiastic as some that appeared out of Toronto and Telluride.
A look at the posters for the films in the main slate of this year’s New York Film Festival.
Payne’s best film yet? Not everyone agrees.
Alexander Payne is an unusual proposition; a Hollywood insider with a taste for European arthouse films, a director whose films seem relatively gentle and breezy on the surface, yet hide an acerbic… read review
The Descendants est un film qui ne repose sur pas grand chose et qui pourtant arrive majestueusement à le transcender parce qu’il se tisse dans une large gamme de nuances. Hawaï – et son excellente… read review
A film like this, and its ilk, is not that different from bad hardcore pornography. Both try to elicit primal emotions – to cry, to cum – stripping down everything to maximalize the central purpose… read review