Friday, December 16, 2011

Episode 84.5 - The Kids Are All Right Review 9/10

The Kids Are All Right - 2010- Lisa Cholodenko

As soon as I saw that The Kids Are All Right revolved around a gay couple, a part of me threw up a little bit because I knew if it were anything like any other movie about a gay couple, I was in for a flamboyant romp trying to push the whole homosexual movement on the general masses by dancing around in pink underwear shouting “whee, isn’t this fun?! I don’t know why ya’ll are having so much trouble tolerating this,” a la Love and Other Disasters or “American Idol.” However, I have to admit as the movie progressed, I was shocked at how practical and down to earth this movie was. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore did an incredible job as a couple, as parents, and as two homosexuals in love with each other, not in love with the fact that the world has to allow them to love each other. It was a rare treat and I have complete and utter respect for this movie because of it.

Bottom line, The Kids Are All Right was a glorious (not faaaabulous) return to the gritty, controversial, smart, edgy films that made me fall in love with Focus Features to begin with. The writing was spectacular and the story was superb in how it was paced and how it was executed. One of things I really love about a movie is when there isn’t a good or a bad guy, just two groups of people responding to difficult choices where neither one renders a really positive result. For good examples of these kinds of movies please watch House of Sand and Fog or Princess Mononoke. This one was very much a “well, how the fuck do you deal with that” kind of like what I asked myself after watching Crazy Heart yesterday.

Though the story contains the lesbian couple of Jules and Nic (Moore and Bening), the whole mess starts because of their kids, Joni and Laser (and Taser and Blazer and all kinds of “azers.” …sorry), who decide to contact the sperm bank where their father donated them…deposited them…jerked them over…there’s no kosher way to say this…and start communication with their biological dad Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Paul is a chef…I think…or a restaurant owner who understands good food, regardless, he’s at the point in his life where he is really longing for a family, so when his own kids come to him and say “hey, we want to learn more about you…granted you’re not a creep,” it fulfills a little bit of that longing to be a part of a family.

Trouble is it gets awkward when he meets the parents and finds a way, through sheer decency, to not just be part of a family, but inject himself into this one, filling holes (literally) in each family member’s (not THAT literally) lives that have been created through years and years of raising a family and having different objectives in life and things that tear up normal families, a la American Beauty. Like I said, down to earth. Mark Ruffalo is not that “dreamy guy that makes gay women straight and straight men gay,” he’s just a guy here. I appreciated that the complications weren’t the orgasmic lust that tend to stain gay romantic comedies and destroy EVERY single person’s ability to be respected as “someone who knows what a meaningful relationship really means.” The kids feel like they have a true male father figure, Jules gets to connect with someone who understands her artistic side, and Nic’s sternness quite literally keep this family from up and leaving to go live with Paul and she finally starts to feel a little respect for it. There is no easy answer here and even when a resolution is finally reached, I still scratched my head wondering “was that the right call?”

I was a bit blown away by this movie because it could have messed up easily and it didn’t. This didn’t HAVE to be around a gay couple, the husband could have been sterile and the premise would have worked. However, The Kids Are All Right wasn’t afraid to tackle the challenges that are had BECAUSE a couple is gay, and not once did it pull the “this is an unacceptable lifestyle” card for the sake of making things even more difficult. It was refreshingly tolerant and understanding that this is a fully-functional family…not a family of two moms, but a family with struggles and hardships and fights that strengthen the bonds between them, regardless of gender. It felt natural, comfortable, heart-felt and even if I came into this feeling uneasiness about homosexuality, I don’t feel I would have walked away feeling disgusted, but instead, more accepting and for reasons other than pity.

It just worked with me and for taking on such a difficult issue and truly being fresh with it instead of coming up with easy movie-trailer fodder, for having a captivating story with exceptional chemistry that was just comfortable and pleasant to watch, I award The Kids Are All Right with 9 dustbusters out of a 10, and bow to it for finally accomplishing what I had been hoping to see for a long time. 


  1. I LOVE this movie!! I'm a huge Benning fan and while Julianne Moore is kind of hit-and-miss for me, she and Benning created characters who genuinely feel like they've been in a relationship (and you're right, gay or not isn't the point) for a long time. Mark Ruffalo...well, can't say I've ever NOT liked him in anything, but he gives much needed lightness. Even the kids are all right (bazinga!), and that's a lot coming from someone who is usually underwhelmed by the "talents" of most younger actors these days.

    I avoided it for a long time thinking it was going to be an overwrought, depressing soap opera. I'm SO glad I was wrong.

  2. lol, well done on the title there. Yeah, lots of things had me surprised in this and it really could have gone soap opera. But it was pleasant enjoyable all the way through. Surprising performances and work all the way around.