Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election) directs his first film in seven years with this charming comedy. Matt King (Clooney), trustee to his extended family's valuable plot of picturesque territory in Hawaii that's been passed down through generations, is all at sea after his wife falls into a coma following a boating accident. Having to take more direct responsibility for his two precocious daughters whilst also juggling the responsibility of brokering the sale of the land to keep his oddball relatives happy, the waters are muddied further with the discovery of his spouse’s long-term affair.
Though lacking the acid bite of his best work, there’s certainly enough wit and eccentricity to draw favourable comparisons, and by eschewing dreary sentimentality Payne elicits genuine warmth for his film’s protagonists. Clooney is excellent as the frustrated and befuddled Matt, and Shailene Woodley, as his embittered eldest, Alex, provides one of the most impressive breakthrough performances in years. Moving, thoughtful and frequently hilarious, it’s good to have Payne back. [Chris Fyvie]