THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT.
Contemporary lifestyle and marriage is put to the test in the new film from director Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon). I say contemporary because it deals with a lesbian marriage, although the lesbian aspect is hardly the focal point. It is a film about relationships, and the difficulties in sustaining them, a universal theme, gay or straight. It deals with family, and children, and most of all it deals with love.
Nic & Jules are the couple, played by Annette Bening & Julianne Moore. Married for 20 years they have 2 children – a girl, Joni, and a boy, Laser (Mia Wasikowska & Josh Hutcherson). They are the product of an anonymous sperm donor program, both share the same father, the 2 moms gave birth to 1 each. They have a stable family life, but with the children seeking out their “biological” father, things go a little haywire. The father turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a roguish restauranteur/chef. He likes the idea of meeting the kids, and the mums. The kids like him, Jules likes him, it is only the slightly uptight Nic who is wary. The cracks in the marriage start to show, but in the end it all plays out to a satisfying conclusion.
The screenplay is by Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg, it has its funny moments, and its serious ones, but it is not too heavy or histrionic, and not always laugh out loud, it is just right. The sparkling authentic dialogue is one of the reasons the film is so successful. All of the characters have a distinct personality that the wonderful cast create to perfection. Cholodenko should be commended for directing a smart comedy full of believable flawed human beings, she plays to the Hollywood formula (everyone is very good on the eye & they all lead a very nice lifestyle indeed), but she also gives it an intelligent twist every now and then (not shy on the sexual content). She obviously has a talent in drawing out excellent performances, of course she has the stellar cast to help. Julianne Moore is less nuanced than she has been of late, she is the softer of the two women, and has some great comedic moments. Mark Ruffalo makes very likeable a character that should be more annoying, some of his reactions are classic. The kids are terrific too, Mia Wasikowska proving that she has got what it take to immerse herself into a character, she is smart, and has fears and frustrations about growing into adulthood, she plays it so well. It is a breakthough perfomance I think, we will be seeing a lot more of her talents in the future. As her half brother – Josh Hutcherson holds his own amongst the bunch. His scenes with his “dad” are quite touching. But to me it is the performance of Annette Bening that truly stands out. She has the uptight angle down to a tee, yet her vulnerable side is just as impressive, the scene in which she discovers a serious betrayal is knockout. She has never been better, and she is always so good – a shoo in for a best actress nod next year. I should also make mention of minor characters making a mark – Paul’s restaurant manager and sometime lover, and Joni’s sex starved best friend add to the rich collection.
The Kids Are All Right is a rewarding cinema experience, great acting , direction and writing, it looks good too. What more can you ask for?
I gotta say it’s not just the kids that are all right, the film is too – in my opinion.
Footnote: There are a lot of meals in the film, even though there are not close-ups it is noticeable that it has been thought about and is very authentic – there is a food stylist mentioned in the credits, oh the luxury!