George Clooney has carved out a reputation for making interesting thoughtful films, clearly not interested in taking the easy superficial glamour route, he could so easily follow.
In Director Alexander Paynes film, he is again all but shorn of his movie star persona and usual acting traits. Playing another everyman, this time in Hawaii, a glamorous location that Payne still manages to portray as almost anywhere. The same stresses, family troubles and tragedy, albeit with palm trees and better music.
As the voice over intones, “My friends on the mainland think just because I live in Hawaii, I live in paradise. Like a permanent vacation. We’re all just out here sipping Mai Tais, shaking our hips, and catching waves. Are they insane?”
Lawyer Matt King (Clooney), is a loving albeit somewhat absent father to his two daughters and inattentive husband to sports loving Elizabeth (Hastie). He is a fundamentally good man, working hard to provide for his family but appears emotionally disconnected from them all.
He also has money worries, not like most folk though. He is the sole trustee to a plot of land left to the family from descendants stretching back to 1860. A deal is in the offing, that will net some $500 million to be shared by him and his many extended family members. Understandably they are keen to sell, even if many locals are against the development deal.
The catalyst for the journey we witness is a near fatal boating accident, leaving Elizabeth all but brain dead. Not a spoiler, as it’s the first point of business in the film.
The film is about the journey that Matt and his family take to reach some form of weak reconciliation or method of learning to trust and love each other again.
Clooney is as good as he has ever been, confused, angry and clearly as a father, out of his depth. His enforced solo fatherhood role is not helped by his daughters. Scottie (Miller), the youngest is already trouble with potential for more, trouble that is. Alexandra (Woodley) has set the template Scottie is sure to follow, sullen, rude and not willing to play the game at all.
The children are both excellent, notably Woodley who manages to just about pull off the feat of being obnoxious, yet likeable at the same time. Her friend Sid (Krause) acting as a social hand grenade, saying inappropriate stuff but with the best of intentions.
Not a lot happens but actually a lot happens courtesy of a smart script based on Kaui Hart Hemmings debut novel. Character arcs are followed, Alexandra’s perhaps too fast but that is a small complaint. Clooney is believable and produces another worthy performance to add to his repertoire.
It’s also good to see Beau Bridges again, albeit in a small role.
A character study with inherent humour, drama and a strong central performance from Clooney.
Not showy but a great watch for a more mature audience, a demographic largely ignored at the box office.