A few weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly ran a story about how box office numbers are down and it's quite possibly because the quality of movies is down. This, of course, was before Toy Story 3 came out and was both fantastic and hugely successful. One of the points in the EW article was that, at this point last year, five of the ten eventual Best Picture nominees had already been released, including the eventual winner. This year, no movie had yet come out which had any prayer of being nominated. Again, before Toy Story 3, which I think has a decent shot. Anyways, a lot of hope for the first (or second) really great movie have been put on the first big-hype indie movie of the year, The Kids Are All Right. It opens July 16, but I was able to catch a sneak preview tonight.
Wherefore the hype? The movie stars three talented can't-miss actors in Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo. The plot is intriguing, dealing with a same-sex female couple with teenage kids. When the older kid turns 18, she finds out who the sperm donor was that her mothers used, and the two kids (both from his seed) meet him clandestinely out of curiosity. When the moms find out what the kids have done, they welcome the man so that the kids' curiosity is satisfied. Dramedy ensues. The acting is great -- Bening and Ruffalo could be the first actors I've seen this year that merit Oscar nomination talk -- but the hype should end right there.
It's good. It's entertaining. I enjoyed seeing it. Deep inside The Kids Are All Right, there is the kernel of a very, very good movie. The problem is that the outside is merely (mostly) good. It just misses and those are the types of movies that are a bit frustrating. You can easily pick apart a few things and that makes you wonder why the film makers couldn't see those flaws as well. There seems to be an editing issue, where there are a number of nice scenes that don't necessarily add to the overall movie and, therefore, take away from the flow. More than anything, I feel like the movie doesn't quite know what it wants to be.
I'm fine with a "slice of life" movie where the story arc is subtle, but some of the characters' actions are a little unnatural for it to be that type of movie. I'm fine with a "message" movie where everything is pointed towards getting across a specific theme, but there are too many superfluous actions and hanging threads. I didn't love where a couple of the characters went. I didn't love part of the ending. It, overall, left me frustrated.
I could go on a rant about how some of the movie is too liberal (I call it having "Rachel Getting Married disease"). Ruffalo's character is supposed to be a man's man, but he has an organic farm. It's just so California. Not really, but that's what the stereotypes say, just as well as Larry The Cable Guy's stereotypes speak to Southern culture. There's a scene where one character rants about how some liberal things are too phony and, while seeming a bit forced, it at least made things a little more realistic. People who are more familiar with same-sex relationships than I am may have an issue with one thing that happens during the movie, as well. I don't need to nitpick to that point, though, because of the fundamental thematic flaws. I'm a big Ruffalo fan and he's great. Bening and Moore are also great, though Moore suffers from being saddled with some of the cheesier lines and, even though she has the great monologue at the end, her best-written stuff feels a little forced (also, I was thrown by the fact that she doesn't have a thick Boston accent in this movie, but that's beside the point). So, yes, I enjoyed it, but I'm still searching for a second Best Picture-caliber movie.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT Written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg Directed by Lisa Cholodenko Starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson and Mark Ruffalo Joni: Each of my mom’s used your sperm. Paul: As in two? As in both of them? Joni: Uh-huh, as in gay. I don’t know if anyone has told you this already but family can be fairly complicated. … more
A lesbian couple raising two kids conceived by artificial insemination is pretty much a definition of "unconditional family"... But how things will turn when the children will want to meet their "distant father" the sperm donor? This movie might give the answers you're looking for. It's a very nice build story... the characters are well developed and there's no ridiculous emotional process that they go through. It's an liberating and … more
"The Kids are All Right" is one of the most honest and intelligent films about family, relationships, and the institution of marriage you're likely to see or have ever seen. That the central characters are a lesbian couple doesn't matter in the slightest. Director/co-writer Lisa Cholodenko doesn't sermonize about homophobia or civil unions or moral values, but rather presents a sincere, complex, and universal portrayal an American family - imperfect and at times highly turbulent, but still loving … more
"The Kids Are All Right" Lesbians Raising Children Amos Lassen Nic and Jules are a middle-aged lesbian couple raising two teenagers, Joni and Laser in suburban Los Angeles. All went fine until Joni listens to Laser and decides to find out about her biological father. She investigates, calls the sperm bank who puts her in touch with Paul who is willing to meet the kids that he never knew were his. Paul comes to visit and all "hell … more
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT has been heaped with praise from critics, including significant talk of Oscar nominations. The entire time I was watching the film, I couldn't help but wonder if at least some of that stemmed purely from a need to praise a film for showing a "normal" lesbian family...regardless of the quality of the film. I know viewers (or even just people who read a description of the film) who have problems with gay issues will no doubt bristle at this film and its efforts to "push an agenda." … more
If the relationships that anchor Lisa Cholodenko's warmly funny films appear unconventional, their problems--their pleasures--remain universal. InThe Kids Are All Right(no relation to the Who documentary), she takes on a suburban Los Angeles family with two teens, Joni (Alice in Wonderland's Mia Wasikowska) and the unfortunately named Laser (Josh Hutcherson,The Bridge to Terabithia), and two mothers, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (an atypically relaxed Julianne Moore), who conceived via artificial insemination. Now that she's heading off to college, Laser urges 18-year-old Joni to seek out their birth father, who lives in the area (her name comes from folksinger Mitchell). Though she hits it off with Paul (Mark Ruffalo, effortlessly charming), a motorcycle-riding restaurant owner, Laser has his doubts (troublingly, the 15-year-old's best friend uses "faggot" as an all-purpose epithet). After they introduce Paul to their parents, allegiances start to shift. While Nic, a doctor, serves as breadwinner (and disciplinarian), Jules, a homemaker-turned-landscape artist, provides the nurturing. Paul, on the other hand, lives free from attachments, inciting both curiosity and suspicion. Furthermore, Jules finds him strangely irresistible, which only expands the fissures in her loving, yet unstable union. As withLaurel Canyon, Cholodenko doesn't just create fully rounded characters, but entire communities. In the end,Kidsisn't about children vs. ...