After four Academy Award nominations, Lisa Cholodenko’s character driven drama about a modern family remains a complicated, troubling film to me. Led by some of the most talented actors working today (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo), the film centers around the lives of two teenagers, Joni (played here by Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), who have started to wonder about their biological father. Born and raised by their two moms, the two are starting to psychologically prepare for Joni’s next step – she’s about to leave for college. Laser, who is arguably at “the age” where having a father around is just as important as being nurtured and mothered begins pressuring his sister, who is 18 and legally able to obtain the information, to reach out and contact their bio-dad, Paul (Mark Ruffalo).
Neither are prepared for the laid back, easygoing guy they find. A restaurateur, involved in an ongoing casual relationship with a coworker, Paul is a sharp (and welcome) contrast to Nic (Annette Bening) who is a “by the numbers” doctor who has long since laid down the law in their household. Soon, the kids find themselves drawn into Paul’s life.
Lisa Cholodenko, who brought us “High Art” and personal favorite “Laurel Canyon”, is not the type to shy away from the difficult and often reckless things we humans get ourselves up to. “The Kids Are All Right” is no exception. What happens to this modern family when Jules (played fearlessly by Julianne Moore) meets Paul is uncomfortable, unwelcome and unexpected, especially when everything is going so well. As the two become embroiled in a heated affair, and the cracks begin to show in Jules and Nic’s relationship, as a passive observer, you must make the commitment to see the film through, as painful as it might be. For as much as you want it not to be happening, you see a charge in Jules’ character – one that seems to have been relit by the charismatic, outgoing Paul – and you’re either strangely happy for her or completely pissed by this massive betrayal.
Ultimately, “The Kids Are All Right” is not just another LGBT film. It adds truth and credence to the lexicon of the genre, making no apologies for the reality it mirrors here. Fans of Moore and Bening will find their performances are fresh and fully realized. The raw intimacy between the characters feels like an exposed nerve. Bening (who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and won a Golden Globe for her turn here as Nic) give us an especially complex and passionate performance.
“The Kids Are All Right” is not a feel-good film, even though Cholodenko leaves us with one last hopeful scene as the film draws to an end with Joni being left at university. Don’t pick it up for a movie night with friends or family without expecting it to start a conversation, raise questions, or even piss someone off. It is provocative and insightful and proves yet again that, straight or gay, we’re all just trying to figure sh*t out.
Explore more at the official website: The Kids Are All Right
Official trailer: The Kids Are All Right