Alexander Payne's film fancies itself a tragicomic story of spiritual redemption. It's about a wealthy but neglectful husband and father who learns about the true meaning of family through three life-altering events: a serious boating accident, an instance of infidelity, and a business decision concerning a valuable parcel of Hawaiian land that has been in his family for generations.
Despite the many characters and subplots employed to help build the tale, it is a house of cards. The shakiness is evident from the opening scenes, which accost us with a seemingly endless voice-over by the protagonist, Matt King (George Clooney), who tells us way too much far too quickly, rushing through a complex back story that deserves to be shown rather than recounted. When the key drama arrives, it is a messy mix of broad humor, sad revelations and tender moments that never find the right tone.