The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Directed by Lisa Cholodenko
Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg

The Kids Are All Right is one of those films that got a smaller release, being an independent film, that seems to be picking up steam heading into awards season. It was released back in July, but everyone seems to be catching up with it now, as it is being nominated for end of the year awards. I too am just catching up with it. Cholodenko is a filmmaker I am unfamiliar with, but the cast is full of great actors. Most prominently we have Academy Award nominated actresses Julianne Moore and Annette Benning. But we also have Mark Ruffalo, and as the kids, Mia Wasikowska, whom I have mentioned before on here, and Josh Hutcherson, whose work I have not seen, but is mostly family oriented films like Zathura, Bridge to Terabithia & Journey to the Center of the Earth. But this is not your basic family movie.

No, this is your unconventional family movie. It revolves, truly, around the two kids of the family, Joni (Wasikowska) and Laser (Hutcherson), yes, Laser. They are the children of a same sex couple who is happily married, or so it seems. Nic (Benning) and Jules (Moore) are lesbians, true, but they love each other and they love their children. When Joni turns 18, however, Laser convinces her to make the phone call to find their biological father, a former sperm donor. When they do meet Paul (Ruffalo), a new way of looking at their family and their lives arises. They are given a fresh perspective of what it means to be a family.

The idea for the film is certainly original and in that way it turns out to be a refreshing look at the family structure in this day and age. The “progressive”, “unconventional” family is something that has been debated amongst theologians and other family experts. My opinion notwithstanding, the family here is quite nice. The mothers are loving, caring and supporting of their two children. And for all intents and purposes, it appears that the children live fairly normal lives for teenagers. What Cholodenko does here is make us sympathize, and sympathize with every character. She, and co-writer Blumberg, craft characters that each have a personality and each has a crisis in their lives they must overcome. It is not unusual that the audience should be rooting for these characters, but what sets it apart is that we are rooting for each and every one of these characters in different ways, even if they are working against each other. At least I was.

In addition to the wonderful writing, all of the actors were able to breathe such great life into the characters. Annette Benning is the best here and is deserving of her Golden Globe nomination, but Ruffalo and Wasikowska are also fantastic. Moore sort of gets overshadowed by the cast, but she too is good, as is Hutcherson. There are scenes that don’t work, though they are few and far between, but Cholodenko captures the awkwardness, strangeness, and the immense love of the situation beautifully.

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