|The Kids Are All Right (USA; 104 min.)
directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
starring: Julianne Moore; Annette Bening; Mark Ruffalo; Mia Wasikowska; Josh Hutcherson; Yaya DaCosta
Michael says: "Lisa Cholodenko’s fourth feature (following HIGH ART, LAUREL CANYON and CAVEDWELLER) THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, is getting a tremendous amount of critical acclaim, and even early Oscar buzz. I was very excited to see this film after first seeing the trailer a few months ago, and perhaps it was the anticipation that led to the slight feeling of disappointment after finally seeing the film recently. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is a good film; a smart, self-assured, entertaining film. It wasn’t the masterpiece that I was hoping it would be recalling the dizzying heights of her debut HIGH ART.
"Joni and Laser are teenaged siblings with two moms. Laser wants to find out more information about his biological father, and encourages his reluctant older sister to find out who he is now that she has turned eighteen. Jules and Nic, their parents are quirky and over-protective, but loving parents who have no interest in having their kids meet their sperm donor father. Secretly, they meet the free-spirited Paul who soon ingratiates himself into this unconventional family’s life. Naturally it disrupts the balance of things and reveals to each of them all the things they yearn for and do not have. It’s not a very ground-breaking plot, other than the lesbian twist on parenting. In fact, what Cholodenko has done is turned a story that ten years ago would have been a fringe story and turned it into something very mainstream, which in itself a pretty ground-breaking thing to do. My slight disappointments in the film are its very strengths, making a film about an unconventional family into something utterly acceptable and normal. Let me be clear, it’s a triumph, and I applaud all involved; I just wish it hadn’t been so overtly commercial.
"The strength of the film comes from the outstanding performances by the talented cast. Julianne Moore does something I’ve rarely seen her do with Nic by fully inhabiting a woman so unsure of herself, whose self-esteem is determined by those around her. She’s earthy-crunchy, a little flaky, yet warm and loving. It’s not a character Julianne plays often, and she does it with convincing skill, confirming her place among my favorite actors. Annette Bening plays Jules, a successful, hyper-critical doctor who doesn’t like surprises and likes a lack of control even less. Their marriage, nearing twenty years together, is something that most long-term couples will recognize, where each takes the other for granted and the spark has dimmed so low it’s barely there. Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson are great as the two kids, who think they’ve missed out on something by not having a father. Wasikowska particularly shows us her need for independence during her last summer before college, even as she faces that independence with trepidation. Mark Ruffalo plays the free-spirited Paul, who finds in this tight-knit family something that perhaps he has missed during his adult life. Paul’s character borders on subtly manipulative, but Ruffalo keeps him relatively endearing to the end.
"As I said, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is a ground-breaking film, even in its mainstream sensibility. It will be a huge testament to Cholodenko if this film goes on to much commercial success, and I wish it well on its journey. 4 cats (despite its flaws)."