Clooney charms Toronto playing a family man

Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:51pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

TORONTO (Reuters) - Calling acting just his "day job," George Clooney is winning over movie critics and audiences in Toronto with a nuanced performance as a father forced to rethink his life after his wife suffers a debilitating accident.

Clooney plays the key role in "The Descendants," a new feature from Alexander Payne, who directed the Oscar-winning "Sideways," and he brings a similar blend of humor and heartbreak to this new movie set against a Hawaiian backdrop.

The film is one of the big attractions at the Toronto International Film Festival, with Clooney hitting the red carpet on Saturday with typical self-deprecating remarks and charm, joking with a large audience that playing a family man was, of course, a natural fit for the famous bachelor.

"He did seem like a very good family man, it seemed perfect for me," he told a laughing audience at the premiere, who threw questions at him about how he could possibly be so in tune with his parenting side for the role when, in real life, he's unmarried and has no children.

In "The Descendants," Clooney plays a successful real estate lawyer coping with tragedy and reconnecting with his two daughters while facing his past, his shortcomings as a father and a different future. The film was adapted by Payne and two other screenwriters from Kaui Hart Hemmings' 2007 novel of the same title.

Coming straight off favorable reviews for his directing and acting in the political drama "The Ides of March," which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and has pleased audiences in Toronto, the actor has drawn praise for his turn in "The Descendants," with critics calling his performance perfectly underplayed, and noting Payne's ability to subtly but quickly change tones.

The Hollywood Reporter said, "Never has (Payne's) knack for mixing moods and modulating subtle emotions been more evident," while Clooney noted that "there's a sense that he's able to turn things from funny to sad really quickly, and he's just a master of it."

DO OSCARS AWAIT?   Continued...

<p>Actor George Clooney smiles during the news conference for the film "The Descendants" at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival September 10, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>