Sunday, 22 August 2010
FILM REVIEW: THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. And all gay families are just like every other family. That is perhaps the most radical notion posited by director Lisa Cholodenko in her new comedy (co-penned with Stuart Blumberg), The Kids Are All Right.
Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have been together some twenty years and raised two children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), both the result of the same anonymous sperm donor. The Californian couple are small 'l' liberals and easy going, or so they believe. When the kids decide they want to meet 'dad', all manner of cracks begin to appear in the family unit.
That 'dad' is Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an aging hippie who grows his own produce to supply his restaurant. He hadn't given much thought to meeting any offspring his seed (donated during his college days when he needed the money) may have produced, but with an instant family – and a lesbian couple to boot (“I love lesbians” he tells Joni during their telephone introduction) – he's up for getting in touch with his inner father.
It is a credit to Cholodenko, Blumberg and the cast that the point of the film is not the gay status of the family but the state of the family generally. Bening and Moore perfectly capture every nuance of a longterm marriage: Nic, the uptight breadwinner, and Jules, the flighty stay-at-home mother; the stealth-like alcoholic and the dreamer with no follow-through.
Many are suggesting this could be the film to end both actresses losing streaks at the Oscars, although both are believed to be set to campaign for Lead which I think would halve their votes. There is a well of support for Bening to win Best Actress (having lost out twice, both times to Hilary Swank), though I'd suggest Moore has more screen time (not that that's always relevant; Moore also had more screen time than Nicole Kidman in The Hours but went Supporting to Kidman's prosthetic proboscis).
Either way, don't be at all surprised to find The Kids Are All Right as one of the 10 Best Picture nominees. A comedy but not of the laugh-a-minute variety, though there will be moments where you laugh out loud, most of the humour arises from the reality of the situations. But there's pain there, too, as the film gets at some deeper relationship truths, not just for gay couples but for everyone.