The Kids Are All Right

1 Aug

Title: The Kids Are All Right
Year: 2010
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Writers: Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
MPAA Rating: R, strong sexual content, nudity, language and some teen drug and alcohol use
Runtime: 106 min
Major Awards: 2 Golden Globes
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

When I first saw The Kids Are All Right it was the best film I had seen all year by a mile, now I’ve seen Inception so that’s changed, but still, this one will go down as one of the year’s best for sure, and it’s exactly the sort of film I enjoy, a small indie dealing with real human complexities, and this one has five lead performances that are, to me, as perfect as they could have come, as is the film as a whole, and I sincerely hope it gets a nice bit of attention when the award season arrives.

This film is witty and just full-on engaging, and I truly cannot say enough about how amazing the performances, because really, the five actors are absolutely perfect at presenting the imperfections of their characters, and the multidimensionality of their performances, which of course starts with the beautifully crafted script, is just a true joy to watch and, whatever your own family life is like, you’re bound to find something of it in this one in one way or another, which just makes the connection one makes with this film that much deeper.

The film has a lesbian couple as its center, they are Jules, played by Julianne Moore, who I’m a bit in love with, and Nic, who’s played by Annette Bening in a performance which, I would imagine, will grant her, at the very least, an Oscar nomination. How this film tackles marriage is fantastic, mostly because it doesn’t focus on the fact that it’s a lesbian marriage, the lesbian part is just there to move the other plotline along, it focusses on marriage as an institution, and it delves into the difficulties it has in tremendous ways. They have two kids, Joni, played by a great Mia Wasikowska, and Laser, played by Josh Hutcherson. Jules delivered one and Nic delivered the other, but the same sperm donor was used, and, as their family life is illustrated for a bit, we see it’s a normal upper middle-class one, with many problems that you wouldn’t be that surprised to find in your own life.

Lisa Cholodenko, who is the director and one of the co-writers of this gorgeous film, crafts this one perfectly, a very smartly written dramedy about an imperfect, but still stable, family life. She has done this equally well in the past, but she hasn’t had performances as perfect as the ones she has now, Ms. Moore, Ms. Bening, Ms. Wasikowska and Mr. Hutcherson are tremendous, and so is the fifth cast member, Mark Ruffalo, who enters the film after the kids decide to look for their biological father. This is the event that shakes up the stability of their lives, Jules and Nic try and act as though they are okay with this decision, but you know that deep down inside they’re scared about it, that they don’t necessarily understand it.

Mark Ruffalo is an actor I really like, you look at him in films like You Can Count on Me, and Zodiac, and Shutter Island, and you know this is a guy who can seriously act, and look at his roles in stuff like 13 Going on 30 or Just Like Heaven, and you know that he’s a pretty charming dude, look at him in this one, and  you can see him acting the shit out of a role while still being really charming, because that’s what the role of Paul needed him to be, kind of like the lighter, better version of the character he played in You Can Count on Me. Paul is, you see, a guy who was definitely a sort of hippie when he first donated his sperm, and still has that same sort of air around him, he’s a pretty chill guy, not married, no kids, he grows organic food and sells it at his organic restaurant, and he’s totally okay with meeting his kids.

So okay, in fact, that when he learns that Jules is thinking about going into landscape design he hires her to do his backyard, and then things happen and they end up having sex (see how I avoided saying “and then he does hers”?), and what stems from that shakes the family even more, but fortunately we have a writer-director like Cholodenko, who is always in control of the stuff she has coming up, she never lets this turn into an unbearable melodrama, but instead this always remains a lighter sort of film, a truly spectacular one at that, and how she copes with the feelings of the people involved is amazing, Nic feeling betrayed and being really serious all of the time, Jules and Paul being confused, a different sort of confusion from the kids, both of whom really like Paul, this is all handled tremendously.

This is, quite simply put, the best comedy film about an American family in a while, maybe ever, I don’t know, I guess Little Miss Sunshine is the only other amazing comedy about an American family I can think of right now, but The Kids Are All Right is even better, I would say, not by much, but it is better to me, it is better because it’s more nuanced, it’s a really funny film without ever being a comedy, and a really heart-wrenching film without ever, as I said above, going into melodramatic tones, it’s just a well-crafted and exceedingly well-acted film.

I loved how Ms. Cholodenko never ever made this film about lesbian marriage, she just made it about marriage and made them lesbians to introduce Paul, it was necessary for that, but not to illustrate something different about the marriage, Nic and Jules have a perfectly normal marriage, they love each other and their kids and they are a bit of a mess in between and they have some problems of communication with their two teenage children, that’s normalcy in every single way, shape or form. Paul communicates better with Laser and Joni, he’s an outsider, he has a fresh sort of insight and personality that enables him to do this, he’s the foreign agent that changes the lives of everyone in that family, and that’s just a treat to watch.

Ms. Cholodenko has crafted a very human film, a film with emotions and complex situations full of domestic awkwardness we can all, to one level or another, relate to, and it’s a perfect film, or at least it was to me, and it’s the sort of film I’ll be able to watch time and time again years into the future and revel with the same level of joy at the performances shown and the emotions evoked. Plus, this is a film with good taste in music, and an even better taste in wine.

Grade: A+

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