February 28, 2011

Queer Review: The Kids Are All Right (2010)

The Kids Are All Right
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Writers: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
Cast: Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson

The Kids Are All Right is a small movie that gained a lot of attention due to featuring a lesbian couple as parents. It manages to be both smartly perceptive and a little vanilla at the same time. I also could not help thinking that this all looked like what might happen if Barbara Kingsolver were to write a lesbian version of American Beauty. Admittedly though, the only reason I mentally made that comparison is because Annette Bening plays similar roles in both movies as the Kids Are All Right lacks both American Beauty's dark humor and violent ending.

The premise is simple, Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) are a happily married conservative lesbian couple, whose two teenagers, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), decide to contact their family sperm donor. When the kids meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo) and then later introduce him to their parents, a chain of events is set in motion, that reveals the cracks in Jules and Nic's previously stable relationship. The highly controlling Nic resents the amount of time her kids start to spend with Paul. Jules, on the other hand, starts a sexual affair with Paul, further straining her relationship with Nic.

The title The Kids Are All Right refers to every parents fear that their kids are not going to be all right and that any mistakes made will cause irreparable damage to their offspring. As Jules and Nic are both Mom's, these fears appear to have been amplified in their case. The underlying theme therefore, is that in spite of the flaws that most parents possess, kids can still turn out all right.

Overall, this is a well put together movie, with some nicely shot and edited sequences, such as when Nic finds out about the Jules and Paul's affair. Another plus is that there is no overwrought melodrama or "shocking" plot twists. Acting wise, there are no standouts, but each member of the cast turns in a better than adequate work. While there are no showy performances, there is a lot of subtlety to be found, even in Mark Ruffalo's role as a laid back bachelor who finds himself questioning his life choices following the revelation that he is a biological father.

The Kids Are All Right is a small movie, in spite of the big name cast. There are no major revelations into the human condition, just a lot of smaller insights. Also, no earthshaking plot twists occur, just some nicely modulated dramatic turns. There is nothing about the movie that can be called "great". However, it is earnest and tries hard. At the end of the day, I would say that's all right.

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