Film Review: The Kids Are All Right
words: Becki Carr
- Rating: 3/5
- Director: Lisa Cholodenko
- Cast: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore
- Released: 29th October 2010
It’s not surprising that Lisa Cholodenko struggled to provide funding for her new film The Kids Are All Right. No studio wanted to take on the extremely difficult challenge of presenting a new kind of American family life of a same sex couple and their children. Made with a low budget, The Kids Are All Right succeeds in presenting both its conventional and unconventional subject matter without being patronising and with a great deal of delicacy.
The film tells the story of a lesbian couple, played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, who by artificial insemination have two teenage children , a fourteen year old son named Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and an eighteen year old daughter ready to leave for college, played by Mia Wasikowska (last seen in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland). Trouble ensues when Laser puts pressure on his older half-sister to get in touch with their sperm donor Paul, a middle aged bachelor (Mark Ruffalo). Paul is surprisingly more than willing to step into his ready-made father figure role and provides difficulties for Bening’s character Nic who finds it hard to adjust to the new member of her family. When asked by Laser why he donated sperm, Paul points out that ‘it seemed a lot more fun than donating blood.’
All five main roles are portrayed with a great deal of skill, Bening has generated an Oscar buzz for her moving performance as the uptight, slightly alcoholic Nic, Moore effortlessly fills her role as the hippy, carefree Jules and Ruffalo is brilliant as the cool, charming and laidback restaurateur Paul. It does however seem a little odd that Jules, as one half of the contemporary couple, is portrayed as bisexual. Her character therefore seems a little diluted as she is not the strong lesbian role model that the film set out to produce.
The kids in question are brilliantly casted and prove as in the title, that it’s not the kids that need worrying about, but the adults. Various issues are explored such as the hardships of marriage, family life, bringing up children and running a business yet none of these take away from the humour of the Cholodenko’s script.
The audience should be able to relate to moments in their own family life, which is probably the reason why the film is so endearing. Of course considering the subject matter, not every teenage boy will have asked his ‘moms’ why they are watching gay male porn, but the awkward situation strikes an identifiable chord. Despite the good amount of wit and humour in the film, the plot is bittersweet. Heartbreaks occur and the family has to deal with trying times.
Cholodenko, herself a lesbian, has clearly used her own personal experience to write a believable contemporary family, as she was pregnant using a sperm donor whilst writing the screenplay. Her co-writer, Steve Blumberg, had donated sperm earlier in his life and therefore both were perfectly equipped to create a convincing story. The cast fluently brings the script to life and treats it with exactly the right amount of humour and sadness.
The American box office has showed a great deal of interest but I just don’t see the same effect happening in Britain. The witty portrait of family life, albeit a slightly different one to the usual conventions, has clearly captured the hearts and minds of many yet the film already seems a little clichéd. The optimistic ending was rather saccharine but ultimately it should be credited for refusing to obey the usual Hollywood ideals.