From director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) comes 2010’s The Kids Are All Right. The film’s about a lesbian couple Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) who have two children by the way of sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Things get complicated when the children Joni (Mia Wasikowska), now 18, and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), 15, want to meet their father.
This film is a very heartfelt, genuine look at a family that’s found normality among a situation that remains stigmatized by many. Jules and Nic are phenomenal parents in pretty much every way and the children they raised are also smart, witty and kind. Nic is definitely the ‘husband’ of the family as she’s the breadwinner by being a doctor. Jules is a free-spirit who jumps from one new endeavor to another. I’d say it’s completely warranted that the children want to meet their father, and once Paul enters the picture Nic is very standoff-ish while Jules embraces the new member of the unconventional family.
I don’t want to reveal much more than that because this film really is a gem and shouldn’t be spoiled. The two main female actresses are well-established as having stellar acting chops. Bening and Moore have great chemistry and the sharp writing of Stuart Blumberg (The Girl Next Door, Keeping the Faith) deserves major credit for providing the actors with writing that helped them come into their characters. As a modern lesbian couple, the two women are strong-willed and raise their children to be sensitive to everyone’s differences. They struggle just like any couple at balancing parenthood, careers, freedom and pleasure.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) in this film. For only being 21, she’s a great actress and I’m excited to see her in larger roles. The brother/sister characters weren’t explored that much. They both benefited from having Paul come into their lives. The film’s title, I think, plays on the fact that the children were more mature and capable of dealing with Paul’s presence than the adults were. I really liked Ruffalo’s portrayal of Paul. He’s a free-spirit as well which is why he and Jules got along so well. Once he’s thrown into this ready-made family he starts to get attached, only later facing the realization that he needs to make his own.
It’s refreshing to see a director approach a topic not widely examined in film, well unless you go straight to the gay and lesbian genre. Among debates over Prop 8 and DADT, Cholodenko, a lesbian, showed gay marriage in such a way that you couldn’t help seeing your own relationship in the writing. It’s compelling because it’s not just about being a lesbian couple; this couple’s bickering and problems are those shared by every couple in the world.