The Descendants

(R) ★★★★☆

Writer/director Alexander Payne’s (Sideways) return is one of this year’s best movies. In a deceptively tranquil Hawaiian setting, Matt King’s (George Clooney’s) reckless wife, Elizabeth, lies in a coma. A few weeks into the crisis, Matt learns what his older daughter (Shailene Woodley) already knows: Elizabeth had taken a lover. Matt and his daughters must confront this lover in some way or another. Stellar acting and Payne’s even-toned, sardonic handling of his characters make this work well.