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July 13, 2010 > Movie Review: The Kids Are All Right

Movie Review: The Kids Are All Right

By Michele Matta

No doubt about it; the good buzz is justified. It comes as no surprise that Annette Bening and Julianne Moore have been mentioned as possible awards season contenders for their outstanding performances in "The Kids Are All Right."

Already the most controversial movie at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and winner of the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival, this intoxicating and deeply touching comedy is directed by Lisa Cholodenko from an original screenplay she wrote with Stuart Blumberg. This movie is a reality check for anyone involved in a relationship undergoing stressful times, and it beckons us to consider and reconsider our priorities.

"To thine own self be true." Shakespeare could have been addressing both Bening and Moore's characters. Even the Bard would have appreciated the poignant emotional truth that defines the ups and downs of family dynamics in this funny, smart and sexy portrait of an apparently stable and loving couple involved in an awkward parenting relationship.

Set in contemporary Los Angeles, "The Kids Are All Right" opens with a seemingly happy lesbian couple, Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), their eighteen-year-old daughter, Joni (Mia Wasikowska from "Alice in Wonderland") and fifteen-year-old son, Laser (Josh Hutcherson). Nic, a type-A doctor with a tongue that can get sharp after her third glass of wine, and Jules, the softer, more go-with-the-flow partner, are experiencing some challenges in their relationship. In addition, their college-bound daughter, and teenage son, both conceived by artificial insemination, decide to track down their biological father, Paul.

Played by a very seductive Mark Ruffalo, Paul is a cool dude; a motorcycle-riding hip L.A. restaurant owner who loves everything organic and wild. Unbeknownst to the "momzies," Paul agrees to meet both his offspring and revels in their company, insinuating himself into their lives as well as their moms'.

Bening and Moore, two outstanding actors, meet the challenge of their careers head-on. There is passion, then misunderstanding; there is deception, then anger and disappointment; and finally understanding, forgiveness, and redemption. Now that's a lot of emotion to portray. To help digest these emotions, Cholodenko injects a profound sense of humor, and some of the scenes are just hilarious. Ruffalo portrays the jolly, debonair, self-centered dad, with enthusiasm and conviction - totally genuine and believable. The "kids" Wasikowska and Hutcherson play their roles with sincerity and touching vulnerability.

This film is unique. It communicates to its audience that though Nic and Jules may be gay, their twenty-plus years relationship suffers from the same ups and downs that any marriage - straight or gay - would go through. Also, as the title suggests, the kids are not the ones that have most of the problems; rather, it's the adults - no matter what their sexuality.

"The Kids Are All Right" is one of the most compelling portraits of an American marriage in film history, and certainly one of the most realistic depictions of a family with gay parents. This movie, which incorporates manners and speech patterns of contemporary America, delivers full satisfaction and should appeal to all audiences because the story is universal, the outcome is simultaneously hilarious and sobering, and the performances are right on.

Running time: 105 minutes
Rated: R

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