"The Kids Are All Right" is not a film about lesbians. It’s not a film about gay marriage either. This funny, superbly acted character study, starring Annette Benning and Julianne Moore as a middle-aged couple with two teenaged kids fathered by the same sperm donor, is about far more universal challenges.
It’s about the way our identities are formed and fractured by our loved ones, about familial power struggles of all kinds, and in particular, about the destructive selfishness that often underlies the impulse to nurture.
Written by: Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
Starring: Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasakowska, Josh Hutcherson.
Release Date: July 9
The topics are serious, but the film, while provocative, never takes itself too seriously. There’s too much fun to be had with its characters, who are at one satirical and emotionally complex. There’s Nic, Benning’s, take on the classic passive-aggressive control freak, the well meaning smotherer, there’s her wife Jules, a lovable bumbling new-ager played by Moore, and then there’s Paul, the incidental father of their children, a narcissistic and oblivious stud of organic farming, played by Mark Ruffalo.
The kids referenced in the film’s title are Laser (Josh Hutcherson), the "sensitive jock" type, who, while he loves his mothers, finds himself longing for a father as he comes of age, and his sister Joni (Mia Wasikowski of "Alice In Wonderland" fame), who has plenty of identity issues of her own to work out as she prepares to leave home for college. Laser, a minor, convinces his older sister to make contact with their father through the fateful sperm bank that made them possible.
"Won’t this hurt Moms," she worries. But she complies, inviting Paul into their lives.
The meeting begins awkwardly, but before long, it grows into something as potentially healthful as Paul’s groovy organic produce. Much to his surprise, Paul finds that he suddenly likes the idea of being a father, and he like his children’s mothers. He even gets Jules’ new, semi-realistic venture into landscape architecture off the ground by inviting her to redesign his space. But Paul’s helping hands are not part of Nic’s plans. She fears he is subverting her master plan and sabotaging her family.
There’s no doubt that "The Kids Are Alright" takes a hard look at challenges inherent in the situation of two women raising children without a fatherâ€”and that do so at this particular moment in American cultural history, can be controversial, even political. Refreshingly though, this film is saved from veering too far into the didactic both by it’s humor and by it’s tight focus on rich characters, not emblems of homosexuality, but complex individuals with problems specific to who they are as people.
An engrossing film with plenty to unpackâ€”this one is better than just "Alright."
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