Saturday, January 08, 2011
The Kids are All Right (2010) ****
I’ve heard that there are only two basic stories: 1) Someone goes on a journey, and 2) Someone comes to town. “The Kids are All Right” is of the “someone comes to town” variety. Lesbian couple Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have a nice, suburban family life with their teenage kids Joni and Laser. Everything, as they say, is going smoothly until the kids look up their sperm-donor biological father. Paul (Mark Ruffalo) is a laid-back man-child who immediately charms the kids and hippy-dippy Jules. Uptight Nic, however, takes a dislike to him, and she becomes more incensed the more her family gets tangled up with him.
“The Kids are All Right” is a genuine dramedy, a story about real people and real conflicts that manages to be hilarious. The reviews I read didn’t really get across how funny and how sexy the film is. It was promoted as a movie that I SHOULD watch; you know, to show how open-minded I am. It’s not a hard movie to watch in any sense, though. All the performances are really excellent. Ruffalo and Moore are great as mildly irresponsible dreamers. Mia Wasikowska looks like a Young Actress To Watch, with a nuanced portrayal of 18-year-old Joni. In my mind, though, it is Annette Bening who deserves the award for her portrayal of Nic, the man of the house. I know that sounds like I’m stereotyping, ignorantly insisting that one member of this lesbian couple has to play the male role. I think it is fair to say, though, that Nic is a character with a lot of masculine energy. Bening’s genius is that she does not overplay that. She doesn’t play Nic like a softball coach or a female drill sergeant. She has respect for the fact that Nic can be a woman while still clearly being the yang to Jules’s yin.
Most movies are like wine coolers, made to please the sugary palate of the lowest common denominator of movie-goer. “The Kids Are All Right” is like a big, tannic red wine. It’s delicious and satisfying, but the viewer who has not developed a palate for sophisticated films will not find the movie to his taste. Some viewers might find the pace too slow or complain that not enough happens. Then, of course, there is the unfortunately large contingent who will be unhappy that the film promotes a gay lifestyle. If, however, you are up for a talky, art film and you are cool in the first place with a story about a couple of lesbians, then “The Kids are All Right” will be a barrel of fun.