The Kids Are All Right

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a married lesbian couple living in California. They have each given birth to a child using the same anonymous sperm donor. Nic, an obstetrician, is the primary breadwinner and the stricter parent, while Jules is more laid back and lives as a housewife who is starting up a landscape design business. While the couple is happy, and the family functioning well, it is also clear that their relationship has begun to go stale.

The younger child Laser (Josh Hutcherson) is eager to find his biological father, but has to be 18 to find the identity of the sperm donor. He begs his 18-year-old sister Joni (Mia Wasikowska) to contact the sperm bank in order to meet their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). The first meeting goes well. Joni is impressed by his bohemian lifestyle and Paul is enthusiastic about being in their lives. Joni swears Laser to secrecy as she does not want to upset their two mothers. However, Jules and Nic find out and invite Paul over to dinner. The atmosphere is awkward but amiable. When Jules reveals that she has a landscape business, Paul asks her to landscape his back garden. Jules agrees, although Nic does not like the idea.

While working for Paul, Jules likes that he appreciates her work in contrast to Nic who, Jules feels, never supported her career. Jules impulsively kisses him one afternoon. They end up in bed together and begin an affair.

Jules and the kids start spending more time with Paul. Nic believes that Paul undermines her authority over the children, for example by giving Joni a ride on his motorcycle when she has forbidden it and suggesting that she give Joni more freedom. After a heated argument with Jules, Nic suggests that they all have dinner at Paul’s house to ease the situation. Things begin to improve, as Nic relaxes and makes a connection with Paul over their mutual love for Joni Mitchell. During the dinner, however, Nic is shocked to discover traces of Jules’ hair in Paul’s bathroom and bedroom. When they return home, Nic confronts Jules. At first, Jules denies it but then admits to the affair. Nic is devastated, but Jules insists she is not in love with Paul and has not turned straight; she just wanted to be appreciated. The household becomes very tense, with Jules sleeping on the couch. The children are angry at Jules and Paul. Paul thinks he has fallen for Jules, and since the relationship between Nic and Jules has deteriorated anyway, he suggests that she leave Nic, bring the kids, and come live with him. Jules passionately declines.

The night before Joni leaves home to go to college, Paul turns up at the house. Nic angrily confronts him, calling him an interloper, and tells him that if he wants a family then he should make one of his own. Following this, Jules addresses her family. She states that “marriage is hard” and tearfully admits her errors and begs for forgiveness. The next morning, the family, pointedly missing Paul, takes Joni to her new university. While Nic and Jules together hug Joni to say goodbye, they also affectionately touch each other. During the ride home, Laser tells his two moms, “you guys shouldn’t break up” because they are both too “old”.

Jules and Nic both giggle at Laser’s comment, and the film ends with them smiling emotionally at each other and clasping hands

REVIEW:

 There is quite the buzz about this film headed into awards season. Some are saying it is a legitimate contender, but not winner, for Best Picture. I won’t go into all that, since most of the films nominated I haven’t seen yet, but I can see how The Kids Are All Right earned its nomination.

I’ll be honest with you, when I decided to check this out this weekend, my expectation were nill. I wasn’t expecting anything good or bad. Films like this usually leave me apathetic towards them.

I can say, though, that I did enjoy the mix of comedy and drama that permeated through the picture.

The story revolves around a lesbian couple and their children. The oldest has turned 18, and hasn’t even thought about meeting her “dad”, but the youngest wants her to use this time to contact him, and then we get all sorts of problems that make the rest of the film.

Let me get to the bad parts of this picture first. As I mentioned earlier, I liked the mix of comedy and drama. A film like this cold very easily have gone into the serious realm and bored folks to death, but they inserted a bit of comedy into the script. However, I think there could have been more, especially in the second half of the film.

I also was not a fan of the way that Joni overreacted to Paul and Jules’ fling. Sure she had reason to be upset, but there was no reason to just fly off the handle and all but shun everyone. I don’t know, I just didn’t get her reaction.

Also, Mark Ruffalo’s performance was not his finest hour. To me, he seemed as if he was just trying too hard. I think part of it was how his character was written, and that’s fine, but part of it was also how he chose to interpret said character, which made him come off as slightly full of himself, which I didn’t care for.

The good parts of the film have to do with the genuine emotions that seem to be shown between Julianne Moore and Annette Benning’s characters. Of course, do you honestly expect less from these two outstanding actresses?

The whole sperm donor thing, as well as the lesbian family angle was something new on the big screen…at least in terms of being the central focal point of an entire film. I really like that they went that route and didn’t make it some “normal” couple who just wasn’t able to have children.

I’ve already mentioned my distaste for Mark Ruffalo’s acting in this film, as well as my respect for Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, but what about the children? Well, together they seem like a natural brother and sister. They have great chemistry, but separately neither was impressive.

Mia Wasikowska, fresh off her time in Alice in Wonderland, still seems to be as wooden and uncaring as ever. However, her little outburst and affection towards her mother shows that she can act a bit. Now, if only she keeps improving… and can we please get this girl some sun?!?

Josh Hutcherson is desperately trying to go from child actor to leading man material. The problem is, he just isn’t that great, or at least he keeps getting cast in these annoying roles that aren’t doing anything for him. The guy has talent, I don’t doubt that, but this wasn’t his best role.

So, what do I ultimately think of The Kids Are All Right? Well, it was a very nice surprise…then again, I didn’t have any kind of expectations for this film. I will be cheering this picture on to win some awards in a couple of weeks, but it isn’t going to be added to my collection. Does that mean you shouldn’t watch it? Goodness no! You should definitely check it out. It is a must-see!

4 out of 5 stars

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