All in the Family: The Kids are Alright

Annette Benning and Julianne Moore star as lesbian parents dealing with their children’s desire to meet their biological father in The Kids are Alright.

Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson and Mark Ruffalo
Written by: Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
Distributed by: Focus Features
104 minutes

In the summer months we’ve all come to expect Hollywood to pump out sequels (god damn it, was it just me or was the Sex and the City sequel the worst piece of garbage you’ve ever seen?) and big budget action flicks.   As the summer of 2010 comes to a close, I have to say I was grateful for two films that came along to save the summer from being a parade of mindless crap.   The first, of course, was Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Inception. The second was a film much smaller in scope but for me just as powerful, the lesbian family drama The Kids are Alright.

To create their family, control freak Nic (Bening) and easy going hippie Jules (Moore) each had a child using the same anonymous sperm donor.   When their grown children Joni (Wasikowska) and Laser (Hutcherson) decide that they want to get to know the man behind the sperm, “the moms” are extremely skeptical.

Dad turns out to be restaurateur Paul (Ruffalo).   Paul is a man who’s been enjoying the single life without any thought of commitment and is a little more than surprised to realize he has two children.

The entire family is populated with brilliant actors: Moore of course can do no wrong in my eyes (well ok, you can totally forgive her for her recent 30 Rock appearance), Wasikowska is a beautiful young woman who’s picking good projects and with time will be a great actress and Ruffalo is a completely underrated actor.   Every time I watch a film with him in it I rediscover how much I’d love to run away with him.

In the eyes of the moms, Paul may be a foreign invader into the family, but he’s in no way a bad guy.   Ruffalo is perfect at portraying a man who is completely unprepared, but also completely willing to become a father.

The main reason to watch this film, though, besides the smart script that was co-written by director Lisa Cholodenko, is the performance of Annette Bening.   As the head of the household Nic is a force to be reckoned with.   She’ll be dammed if anyone’s going to come between her and her children and she makes sure Paul works damn hard to earn her respect.

What Nic doesn’t work as hard at is her relationship with Jules.   After being together for so long Nic and Jules are experiencing the same thing countless heterosexual middle aged couples deal with: how do you keep the spark alive?

As two straight women, Moore and Bening are great at exploring the emotional and sexual chemistry of Nic and Jules.   No easy answers are given to the audience about the future of Nic and Jules relationship and just how much of a role Paul will really play in the kids’ lives.

While my mom complained that Inception left her with so many questions that “her brain hurt” I like films that let you imagine the future for the characters.   You like to hope that everyone in this story ends up together as one big happy family, but it’s also fun to think that there’s a completely new and exciting future that awaits them.

This will be my last post until October. When I return my report will be on the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.   Have a good month film lovers!

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