By Jason A. Hill
The Kids Are All Right, USA, 2010
Directed by Lisa Cholodenko
This surprise hit at Sundance got a wave of momentum going into Oscar season and promises to pick up several nominations. It has already won Best Picture at the Berlin International Film Festival and three nominations at the Golden Globes. The film was well received by most critics, scoring 94% at RottenTomatoes.com and a respectable showing at the box office.
There’s plenty to like about The Kids Are All Right, given the star power it wields in its most pivotal roles, played by two of my favorite actresses, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. It also shows courage in profiling a non-mainstream family and the issues they have to deal with. My only issue with this film was that it played a little too much on the progressive macro subject matter and not enough on the strength of the film, its characters.
Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore) are married and live the alternative family American dream with their teenage children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). The moms gave birth, raised their children, and built a family life for the four of them. Joni, who is preparing to leave for college, promises Laser, her 15-year-old brother, that she will use her “adult” status to find their moms’ sperm donor and schedule a meeting with him. She resists doing this behind the moms’ back but she gives in to her brother’s curiosity, as well as her own. They finally meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a free-wheeling ladies man who runs an organic restaurant. After discovering that they like Paul, they confess their meeting to the moms and ask if they would like to meet him. The kids find themselves drawn to the confirmed bachelor’s footloose style, but as Paul gets closer to the kids they grow apart from Nic, an overworked doctor with strict house rules. Jules, who has been looking to start a new career in landscaping, also strikes up a rapport with Paul, which quickly grows into an affair. Eventually the kids and Jules must decide if they are happy with the family life they’ve established with Nic, or if they want a new one with Paul.
We only seem to get brief caricatures of these people in a drama that plays out in less than one full summer in California. The story that develops seems to be one that would persist over several years and not simply be resolved by the time Joni goes to college. I found myself relating to Jules as she struggles to find herself in middle age while still remaining relevant to her family, but she doesn’t seem to find a resolution to her problems and begs for re-entry back into her life with Nic. It’s not that resolution is always necessary in stories like these, but I expected something more in the end because of the way the film built up the conflict. Perhaps this was handled in the way many real-life relationships are resolved, where there is never a big climax, but only time can heal the wounds inflicted. Overall, I enjoyed the film because it was carried by great acting and, in turn, great directing. Hopefully this has put Cholodenko on the radar for more films and I will be waiting to see what she does next.
Jason A. Hill is the Founder, Owner and Editor In Chief of Movies I Didn’t Get.com. He is a film critic and writer of articles and film reviews covering a variety of genres and film news that have been syndicated to many sites in the film blogosphere. He specializes in independent film in the US and Asia.
For more information please contact Jason at JasonAHill@MoviesIDidn’tGet.com.