The Kids Are All Right
Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
Cast: Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins
Release Date: July 16, 2010
PLOT: Jules (Moore) and Nic (Benning) have two great kids, but things get difficult when they go searching for the sperm donor (Ruffalo).
WHO’S IT FOR? This is an adult, family drama. Sure, Jules and Nic are a lesbian couple, but the focus isn’t squarely on that. Most couples and parents will be able to relate.
EXPECTATIONS: I assumed I was going to get a quality slice-of-life drama with a new twist. Moore and Ruffalo are two of my favorites, though I haven’t been a big fan of Hutcherson.
Julianne Moore as Jules: This is a quality complicated character. She’s been used to staying home and taking care of the kids, but as her daughter Joni is about to head to college, her structure and purpose are unraveling. She acts out, gets into some trouble and tries to hold on to watch she’s got. Moore is once again free with her sexuality in this role, never one to shy away from nudity if it adds to the character. Plus, it’s always impressive to see a character like Jules make bad decisions, but to still feel sorry for her. That’s the power of Moore.
Annette Bening as Nic: She’s the mom who wants you to write thank you notes. That almost says it all, doesn’t it? Bening has such control about herself. She seems like such an alpha dog, and that fits perfectly with Nic. Nic loves the role of being in charge. She also loves her wine. This leads to moments like her rant of hating organic. Bening is very strong on screen. I’m glad she’s acting more.
Mark Ruffalo as Paul: Paul is the cool, wandering, laid back, awesome guy who rides a motorcycle and sleeps with women half his age. Ruffalo gives this character great depth too. When Paul finds out he has two full-grown kids his reaction is pretty much “hmm… cool.” It’s almost like we don’t want to like him, but we can’t help it. He’s kind of a doofus. It’s the little things like way he says, “I love lesbians.” It makes me love Ruffalo.
Mia Wasikowska as Joni: Cute kid. I’m thrilled we aren’t subjected to a teen on the verge of college who’s obsessed with clothes and pop culture. She’s intelligent and still doesn’t know what to do with her sexuality. Wasikowska fits in the hooded sweatshirt just as well as she does in the dress as Alice in Wonderland.
Josh Hutcherson as Laser: I’ll be honest, Hutcherson has driven me nuts in films like Vampire’s Assistant. Not here though. Laser (a tough name to pull off) doesn’t know what to make of his sperm donor dad. As a result, you see some maturity and change. His best moment is when his moms sit him down and ask him if he’s gay.
TALKING: The porn talk, the fights, and best of all, the great dramatic, and sometimes painful conversations over the dinner table … they all feel real.
SIGHTS: The food, the wine, the gardens, the restaurant, the fantastic homes … It’s all upper-class without throwing it in your face. I loved the look of this film. Plus, Paul’s motorcycle jacket is totally kick ass.
SOUNDS: It starts with a little Vampire Weekend. Always a good choice. “Black Country Rock” by David Bowie hums along as Paul cruises along in his motorcycle. We also get Bening singing some Joni Mitchell along with Ruffalo’s help. It leads to Laser being embarrassed by his mom, but quickly realizing she’s a person too.
BEST SCENE: The scene where Nic attempts to embrace Paul into the family, then she discovers what is really going on. It’s brilliant. Perfectly controlled and acted.
ENDING: It really couldn’t have ended any other way. Not if you really cared about this family. Plus, who doesn’t love the emotions connected to a kid going off to college?
QUESTIONS: How dense is Paul? Some of his expectations make me wonder if we’re dealing with a full deck. Plus, the type of porn that Nic and Jules are in to, is that the majority of lesbians? Who knew?
REWATCHABILITY: I look forward to sitting down at my home when this is on Blu-ray, opening a bottle of wine, and enjoying this movie with my wife.
I love that this is a film about a family where being gay isn’t the controversy. By all accounts, the marketing of this film will be about the lesbian coupling of Moore and Bening leading the way. That’s not the film though. This is about the struggles any family can go through … with a little twist. There’s no neighbors whispering and pointing fingers, there’s no concern about the health of the children. For all of that, I breath a very happy sigh of relief.
Jules, Nic, Joni and Laser feel like a family. When Paul comes around, he wants to play house too. Things get messy, as they should. But it always feels real, and clearly that’s what The Kids Are All Right is going for. We get to re-explore the family dynamic and relationships in Lisa Cholodenko’s best film yet.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10