Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

Today I saw The Kids Are All Right, starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Moore) are modern family mamas. They're married lesbians living the dream in California with two nearly grown children; one boy, one girl. One from each of their wombs, produced by the same anonymous sperm donor father.

Joni (Mia Wasikowska) has turned 18 and is preparing to leave for college at the end of summer. Her brother, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) is pressuring her to inquire about their biological father because he is not yet of age, but dying of curiosity about his identity.

Finally persuaded, Joni contacts Paul (Ruffalo) and the three arrange to meet. The encounter goes well, and soon Paul has become a positive part of their lives, much to the dismay of their mother Nic, the most controlling (yet also responsible) of the family. Soon both children are spending quality time with him and Jules is designing his backyard (she's a landscape architect that just started her own business).

From here, things go awry as they do in many families: there is jealousy, betrayal, conversations no one ever wants to have—the family, once seemingly harmonious—is falling apart.

Nic, who is the instigator of much of the drama, is played almost too neurotic by Annette Bening. Of course there are people with her issues everywhere in life, but without anything redeeming to credit her with (aside from her obvious love of the family), it's hard to be on her side. In contrast, Mark Ruffalo's Paul is written to be so accepting and universally cool that I wanted to jump through the screen and start my own family with him. And really, he's not my type.

The real prize for acting, and remaining believable throughout the film goes to Julianne Moore. Her Jules is conflicted and honest and wounded and needy and likable all at once. She's one of those characters you can't help but forgive (and would probably do so in life if she existed), and I can't credit just the writing for that achievement. Moore's ability to morph into an entirely different spirit each time she graces the screen is in full form here.

Both children also do fine, though I would've liked more character development for Laser, and overall I would've favored an ending that didn't frustrate me.

I guess not everything about an enjoyably watchable movie can be satisfying.



Anonymous said...

Liked the review, and something about the ending was frustrating.

The acting was superb, the film felt very real though out. The ending just seemed rushed and incomplete to me.

Norm Gregory said...

I was surprised by my reaction to the ending. It's been a long time since I had thought of that day when my parents dumped me off at college and drove back home to Seattle.

The "Kids . . " is my favorite movie of the year so far. Finally . . . a functioning family and the family wasn't that traditional.

The "Joni Mitchell" dinner scene will stick with me for a long time. Just great!