Satire requires coldheartedness. A satirist must see the hypocrisies that most of us willfully ignore or ignorantly overlook, and fearlessly throw them back into our faces. Alexander Payne is an excellent satirist -- Election
and Citizen Ruth
take no prisoners in their jaundiced explorations of American political and social mores. But The Descendants
, his third movie in a row in which he’s actually tried to tug heartstrings while still playing to his instincts, reveals how hard it is for someone so gifted at cynicism to let genuine tenderness into his film.
George Clooney stars as Matt King, a successful Hawaiian businessman whose wife Eli...