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The Kids Are All Right (2010)

January 7, 2011

7/10 Modern Families

Borders on overdramatic and has a plotline we’ve seen before, but it’s still a clan worth gettin’ to know.

The Kids Are All Right is about two lesbian moms who find themselves adding an addition of sorts to their test-tube family when their two kids get in contact with the sperm donor that helped in creating them and eventually begin treating him as one of the pack. The more they all hang out, the more they get to like him, but then things start getting a little too close for comfort and they start to wonder whether it was actually the best idea to embrace a guy whose only connection to them is the quick hundo he made by wanking into a cup.

Then again, it’s the 21st Century, yo. Families be actin’ crazy.

With that being said (and oh so profoundly, I might add), this is a pretty inspired premise that makes for a pretty progressive and pertinent spin on the usual nuclear family dynamic. Now that same-sex couples, surrogate parents and men who give birth have graduated from a public perception of “Burn the witch!” to secondhand news, this seems like one of those scripts that’s been waiting to happen, one that might have been edgy as hell back in a time where Ellen Degeneres was blacklisted from TV, and I think that’s pretty darn cool. We’re growing up, us Americans.

Anywho, writer/director Lisa Cholodenko has her high points and low points in regards to the script. The best thing she’s got going is her characters and they truly are the bomb. The moms, the kids and the donor all play wonderfully off each other and I love how totally unique they are. They’ve all got their own major shortcomings, they all react very differently to the same conflicts, they develop wonderfully and not a one of them feels unnecessary. Also really dug how I could faintly pick up on their disquiet with one another within the first five minutes and how it all slowly comes to the surface once they start speaking their mind for once. Felt very natural. Man, it’s freakin’ tough to create five different characters and make them feel like individuals instead of plot devices, but Cholodenko really made me buy it.

So the characters are a go, but then there’s the dialogue, and that’s kinda hit-or-miss. The weird thing is that even after seeing it less than 12 hours ago, the only lines I can remember are the ones that annoyed me. Overall, the dialogue’s pretty solid and the cast does a bang-up job delivering it, but then we get this testy dialogue between the donor and the uptight mom:

The Donor: “I was just making observations.”
The Uptight Mom: “Well, I need your observations like a need a D in my A.”

…only she ain’t using initials.

Probably sounded good on paper but ended up being one of those “Who says that?” moments in practice. It’s that same acting-cool-but-sounding-stupid attitude that drove me nuts during Kick-Ass and there are one or two other times where it happens here. Granted, this kinda stuff makes up a relatively minor of dialogue, but that comeback sure ain’t hard to forget.

And, shit, is this an uncomfortable movie to sit through. Even though this story’s got a pretty original spin going for it, the plot is still pretty predictable and relishes in going down the most nails-on-a-chalkboard path at times. It’s just jam-packed with one confrontational, passive-aggressive and/or in-you-face scene after another and I was surprised by how much it kept making me cringe. I guess that’s a testament to how well the cast and Cholodenko connects the audience to the characters, but I could barely look at the screen at times it was so awkward. More of a double-edged sword than anything.

Although as much as I can throw credit to Cholodenko for the characters she created, this is a freakin’ stellar cast.

As for the best of the bunch, I think I gotta go with Julianne Moore as the free-spirited stay-at-home mom, Jules. For the record, Julianne Moore can do no wrong and which each new role I see her in, the more that fact is confirmed. She’s a got a very likable character, one who’s pretty easy to sympathize with to a certain extent and she’s a lot more fun than her spouse. Hippies are always more fun than doctors.

But nearly edging her out is Mark Ruffalo as the sperm donor, Paul. Never been sold on Ruffalo even though it seems like everyone else can’t get enough of him, but he’s awesome here and it’s great watching him as the catalyst that brings his newfound family’s issues to a head. Definitely has the best character arc of the five in terms of his role when he’s first introduced and his role when it’s all said and done. Between this and You Can Count on Me, I think I’m offically on the Ruffalo bandwagon. Still can’t exactly see him as Bruce Banner, but whatever, here’s to hoping he’ll prove me wrong.

The great Annette Bening delivers as usual as the strict workaholic mom, Nic. Character is far less likable than the others and is a wino to boot, but she’s got the most moving scene in the movie and she ultimately redeems her tightass ways. But that is one hell of a lesbian haircut she’s got goin’ on. Not the best look, girl.

And then there’s Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson as the kids who are all right, Joni and Laser (bitchin’ name) respectively. Never seen Hutcherson before, but he holds his own, and Wasikowska really didn’t get the fair shake she deserved as Alice because she’s surprisingly legit. No idea where she came from, but the girl’s got chops and I’m looking forward to seeing her again.

It seems like there are a good deal of folks out there who are pretty enthusiastic about this here motion picture, and while The Kids Are All Right definitely has its strengths in some areas, the drama was just too thick for my blood. All the same, the cast and the characters really are great, I’m a big fan of the premise, and it was definitely better than I thought it was gonna be even if my parents and my good buddy Fred were left pretty underwhelmed, and those are opinions I swear by.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. mcarteratthemovies permalink
    January 7, 2011 2:25 pm

    I finally got around to seeing this last night, and it’s going to make my best of 2010 list (which I’m releasing later this month due to the fact that I’m WAY behind on last year’s better movies). Bening and Moore are absolutely aces at demonstrating the nuances and tribulations of married life — the little looks, the offhand comments turned into weapons. Ruffalo’s pretty much perfect to play such a free-wheelin’, groovy dude.

    • January 7, 2011 2:43 pm

      Yeah, I feel like it’s making a lot of Top Tens. Didn’t quite blow me away, but the cast does rock, Moore and Ruffalo in particular. Looking forward to seeing your take, want to see what it is that folks loved so much about this.

  2. January 11, 2011 6:30 pm

    Wasn’t as good as I was expecting. The comedy was more of a comedy of errors which was kind of bummer, considering this looked like a genuine film, considering the talent involved and the trailer. But anyways good movie none the less, and good review my mans!

    • January 12, 2011 12:24 pm

      Been hearing that reaction from a lot of folks lately. Kinda surprised that I enjoyed it at all after having zero reaction to the trailer when I first saw it, but I don’t know, wasn’t bad. Still, can understand why folks wouldn’t be impressed either.

  3. January 12, 2011 12:46 pm

    I don’t understand why people are saying Bening’s character was the likable one in the movie. It was Moore’s character that I gave a crap about.

    And I was REALLY PO’d by the ending and how poorly the men were written. Ruffalo would have knocked the role out of the park a la “You Can Count on Me” had he been given a well-written man to play.

    • January 12, 2011 12:49 pm

      People liked Bening? She was a workaholic tightass. Right there with ya on Moore.

      And I actually liked Ruffalo, one of the better roles he’s had IMHO and I liked his constantly changing dynamic with the rest of the characters. Not at the same level as You Can Count on Me, but still solid I thought.


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