The Descendants may be director Alexander Payne's finest outing to date. The man who began his career behind the camera with withering satires (Citizen Ruth, Election) has moved into dramatic comedies (About Schmidt, Sideways) that simultaneously observe and comment upon the human condition. In The Descendants, Payne has provided a sympathetic, heartfelt look at the myriad forces pulling apart a man standing at life's crossroads. The film works because it eschews the melodrama that could easily creep into a film addressing issues of mortality and family and because, by keeping its sense of humor intact, it never devolves into a means to boost Kleenex sales.
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