The Kids Are All Right
Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
Written by: Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska
You usually watch a movie about the inner workings of the suburban American family expecting to see it deconstructed, but sitting through Lisa Cholodenko’s bracing, hilarious The Kids Are All Right you watch something strange: it being rebuilt. Following an economic crisis and subsequent rethinking of what it means to be American, Kids comes at the perfect time. It rethinks the nuclear family on the silver screen by doing the most daring thing: not mentioning it.
Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), the two moms at the center of the film, were each impregnated by the same sperm donor. Now that their daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska) has turned 18, her brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) pressures her to contact the donor (Mark Ruffalo). They do, it’s awkward, and it almost tears the happy family apart.
As a concept, this film sounds like a recipe for melodramatic hell. However, the script couldn’t be more subversive, hilarious, and charming. Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg earned their Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination, and they may just win it. They make us sympathize with their characters, while they also poke fun at the free-flowing California lifestyle.
Stylistically, bright sunshine and a brighter color palette light up the trendy world of these modern lesbians, their children, and their problems, and the camera manages to catch every nuanced look.
The actors must be given credit for bringing a script that was already alive with purpose to a level of humanity. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are perfect, dropping every ounce of movie star ego to achieve performances that are real, sympathetic and even heartbreaking. You believe in the tender romance these two flawed women share, which is a huge part to the film’s success. Nic’s controlling doctor and Jule’s free-spirited landscaper is one of the most fully realized on-screen couples in recent memory. The script wisely keeps them away from their “Oscar scenes,” but both of them are deserving of nominations.
Mark Ruffalo is excellent as the outsider who infiltrates the children’s lives in a way that the moms have always wanted to. He attempts to be the father, and seduces a mother in the process. Even this seemingly cliche event sneaks into the film, like most of the other problems. It’s handled by actors who know what they’re doing, and that makes all the difference.
The Kids Are All Right is infused with the same rebellious spirit that spawned The Who song lyric the title comes from. It may not seem like the free-spirited California citizens of the screenplay could deconstruct anything so seamlessly, but with the aid of talented writers with an acerbic wit and actors that have a sense of what makes everyone human, it grows past social satire and human melodrama and becomes something more: a great movie.