Friday, February 25, 2011

Cinema--The Kids Are All Right

or: Meeting the man who made your family happen.

One word to sum it up: Sweet.

The storyline of The Kids Are All Right is fairly simple. A lesbian married couple, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), have lived their lives raising their children: 18 year old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and 15 year old Laser (Josh Hutcherson). Obviously, these two children didn't come out of thin air. In fact, the only thing that binds Joni and Laser together is the fact that they have the same sperm donor: Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Laser has always been curious about who is father was, and now that Joni has turned 18 and she's legally allowed to find out, she makes the call. Paul, an owner of an organic restaurant, decides to meet first with the kids, and then with their parents, much to their surprise. Thing is, Nic and Jules never thought they would have to come to the moment when they actually met their provider of sperm, so they don't have a plan.

To me, this was one of those zingy 'a-ha' concepts that I instantly liked. Though, without seeing the film, I came to the conclusion that this concept couldn't possibly make an entire film, as I thought it would just fizzle out. And it did. That didn't affect the quality of the film that much, though. The Kids Are All Right was a nicely structured, frequently funny portrait of a modern family. And, for once, there was a movie which didn't try to portray teenagers as airheads who just don't give a shit to actual normal people. In fact, this film succeeds in the way it makes its characters normal. It doesn't exploit them by giving them all these bells and whistles and a strange backstory. They're just very real. And I really liked that.

Where Aaron Sorkin captures 'the spirit of the times' with his look at the world of the internet in The Social Network, Lisa Chodolenko and Stuart Blumberg capture 'the spirit of the times' with a look at marriage and having your family fall out from beneath you. Nic and Jules are a very believable couple, displaying the hard times shared and the typical boredom that comes with spending years and years together. This is perfectly shown in a nice monologue from Jules: "Marriage is hard... Just two people slogging through the shit, year after year, getting older, changing. It's a fucking marathon, okay? So, sometimes, you know, you're together for so long, that you just... You stop seeing the other person. You just see weird projections of your own junk. Instead of talking to each other, you go off the rails and act grubby and make stupid choices."

What makes it even better are the restrained but nuanced performances from Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. I'm more on team Moore than Bening, and would have rather seen her in the Oscar race. I just felt that Bening's character, and her performance, was a little too bitchy. Mark Ruffalo, however, is a stand out. I genuinely liked his character, even though he was the person who essentially made the family and became the one to break the family. He just seemed like the kind of guy who just wouldn't settle until he knew he had to, and completely changed from a 'not giving a stuff' attitude to an 'I'll be there for you' attitude, which was really nice. Though Ruff probably won't get the award, its nice to see him finally get some well deserved recognition, and this is probably one of his best performances. Mia Wasikowska and a grown-up Josh Hutcherson (who looks a little too old to be my age) do fantastic work, too.

While the ending was less than satisfactory for me, I guess there wasn't really any way you could conjure up a whipper-snapper end to such a film. Much of the hype shrouding this film unfortunately tainted my opinion on it. Consequently, The Kids Are All Right is my least favourite of the Best Pic nominees, but I imagine it will have a good enough lifespan and people will go to this film as a look at the 'modern family' that shies away from stereotypes. Its smart script and fantastic actors will make sure of that.

THE VERDICT: The Kids Are All Right doesn't live up to its great concept, but there is plenty of smart scriptwriting and fantastic performances to see it through.

What I hoped for:

What I got:


  1. I agree that the characters were believable and real, that's how this film got me. I'm also on team Moore, there's something in Bening that I don't like. I mean she's fine but I don't care about her other parts. She doesn't make me interested in her filmography, while Moore is always great and encourages to seek for her movies I haven't seen.

  2. Julianne Moore rocks! I love her, especially in The Hours. Fantastic actress!


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