His instincts were on the money – as a Best Actor Golden Globe attests – and the film is the sort of warm, funny and emotionally honest film of which we see too little.
In this family-based comedy-drama, Clooney plays Matt King, a Hawaiian businessman negotiating the sale of his family’s inherited real estate. Ignoring his wife and two daughters, he’s a bad husband and father, but is forced to re-evaluate his priorities when his wife is injured in a boating accident, throwing into light a family secret about which everyone seemed to know but him.
Mixing comedy, often farcical (Clooney’s peg-legged run down a hill on hearing some disturbing news is hilarious), with insightful observation, Payne’s film is absorbing from the start. As an average Joe and struggling father, Clooney is superb – the scene in which he confronts a family member in a decidedly odd setting over a past indiscretion shows why he’s an Oscar frontrunner.
But it is an ensemble film, with winning performances all over, particularly Woodley as his emotionally thawing delinquent daughter and a combative, call-it-like-he-sees-it father-in-law.
Payne delivers another tale of a flawed everyman struggling with choices in unusual circumstances, but it is the universal truths and humanity found in the most unlikely of places (and people) that makes this his finest film to date.
Film review by Alasdair Morton
Good for: Finding comedy in the strangest of places.
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller | 15 | 115mins