The newly released The Kids Are All Right will be a huge disappointment for those with abstract preconceptions about non- traditional families. On the other hand The Kids Are All Right just may surprise even those who think they’ve seen it all.
Centered on a family that happens to be headed by lesbian couple with two teenagers, The Kids Are All Right doesn’t waste time getting to the point of the movie- the kids (who are both products of artificial insemination) want to fulfill their curiosity and meet their biological father! The kids, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) the eldest of the two kids is about to leave the nest and head off to college and little brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) is for the most part an average teenage boy. As expected, their quest is accomplished, subsequently forever changing their lives.
What transpires when Paul (Mark Ruffalo), “the donor” as the couple refers to him, is interjected into the family is set up as something that is supposed to surprise the audience. Unfortunately the actions that ultimately shake this family up could be seen from a mile away and was THE most predictable element in the movies entirety. This was an extremely disappointing approach to the movie and came across as something that was done only to appeal to straight audiences. As cynical as that may sound, let’s just say it is highly doubtful that what transpires in this movie would EVER happen if it were a gay male couple.
Despite my dismay with the chosen plot direction, director Lisa Cholodenko’s careful balancing of humor and grief with the story is laudable. At moments you will laugh out loud in shock - such as with the sex scenes, which were gratuitous and obviously done for the sake of easy laughs. But most of the humor came in the form of relatable everyday circumstances -overbearing moms, finding a parent’s porn stash and having the birds and the bees talk with a teen.
The film works in large part due to the memorable performances. Annette Bening is simply fabulous as Nic, the matriarch of the family. Benings performance was one of the most genuine and heartfelt performances of the year and simply a joy to watch. Bening has been nominated some three times for an Oscar (none of which I found deserving) and it would be a slap in her face if this wasn’t her fourth and possible win. In addition to Bening’s outstanding depiction, the chemistry between Annette Bening and her onscreen wife Jules (Julianne Moore) was authentic and compelling as they come despite their challenges.
I would not refer to The Kids Are All Right as a message movie despite the titles suggestion these children raised in a non-traditional family are ok. However, if there was one message that inconspicuously came through was that no family is perfect regardless of its make up, gay or straight. It doesn’t pontificate nor make any political statements but does tackle issues ranging from raising rebellious teenagers to infidelity. In the process the film avoids the run of the mill cookie cutter dramedy mainstream movie…even with its predictability.
The complexity of the characters in The Kids Are All Right, the avoidance of one dimensional folks and the avoidance of any blatant stereotypes is another element that gives The Kids Are All Right credence. That’s not to say that the issue of a lesbian couple raising kids is dodged, it just isn’t harped upon it - consequently putting the focus on these individuals instead of any associated groups makes the story all the more singular.
The Kids Are All Right will make you laugh, generate some discussion, generally entertains and is well worth of watching. Even with the perplexing events that drive the trajectory of this story – somehow it’ll keep you interested to the very end. Just like the kids, the film makes it through some rough patches, yet due to genuine writing and rich execution, the film too ends up… all right!