In the film’s opening narration, Matt King (George Clooney) bemoans the view taken by most “mainlanders,” that to live in Hawaii is to spend your days drinking Mai Tais and waxing a surfboard, free from the troubles of the world. According to Matt this is absurd, as pain follows us wherever we are. Beautiful Hawaii may be, but it is not a vacuum or a charmed oasis. And yet, much of The Descendants is devoted to the astonishing splendor of the Hawaiian countryside; a choice wholly at odds with the protagonist’s initial frustration. This is an apt disconnect when considering the similar disparity between the film’s subject matter and its tone. Though Alexander Payne’s latest journey film is devoted to an exploration of grief’s gauntlet, it seems to spend just as much time trying to charm us. A choice that, ultimately, hurts more than it helps.