Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Release: The Kids Are All Right

One of the things I miss most about living in New York City (other than friends and family and City Bakery) is the availability of limited release movies.  A quick trip for work gave me the chance to catch The Kids Are Alright, which was the basis of the Reel Insight podcast a few weeks ago on Julianne Moore, so I was pretty excited.  That and word of mouth and reviews were stellar, and I'm very happy to say it totally lived up to the hype.  A perfect combination of comedy and drama, this movie defies a single genre category.  I'll give you a good description and perhaps someone can give me the best category.  Two women, Nic (Annette Benning) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are in a committed relationship, and have raised two children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (John Hutcherson).  Each mom gave birth to one of the kids, using the same sperm donor, so the kids are half-siblings.  Now Joni is 18, about to head off to college, and Laser convinces her to contact the sperm bank to find out about their biological dad.  It starts off with Laser sort of needing a better male role model, like the dad of his loser friend Clay.  However, once they decide to meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo), it's Joni and Jules who realize they might have been missing something.   Nic is a doctor and supports the family, but is a bit of a control freak.  Jules is more of a free spirit and wants to start her own landscaping business.  Paul, too, is a free spirit who didn't finish college, but now runs his own restaurant and organic farm.  There are 3 major story lines through the movie: Laser's relationship with Clay (which Nic and Jules suspect might be more than friends), Joni's relationship with Paul, blossoming with someone who might be a good role model outside of the rigid life she's led so far, and finally Jules relationship with Paul after he hires her to landscape his yard.  Then the overarching story is what does it mean to be kids in a family with two moms.  Each relationship is filled with humor and drama, as all relationships can be.  I won't describe everything that happens, but will say that there aren't really any spoilers.  It's the kind of movie where the details don't actually spoil the overall story, which can only be experienced as a whole.  One of the funniest moments is when Laser walks in on his parents having sex and watching gay MALE porn.  They sit him down to talk and the only question he has is why they were watching guys.  Nic starts with it's a private thing, but Jules is more practical and says something along the lines of "Lesbian porn tends to be two straight acttresses pretending to be gay, and it's just not realistic."  This is hysterical because Nic is trying to shush Jules and Laser doesn't want that much detail, but it's also a nod to the people watching the film acknowledging that Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are not in fact gay women, but actresses pretending to be gay.  The whole movie is sophisticated enough in the dialogue and acting skills of the whole cast to be able to interact with the audience just a little bit like that.  Yes, there is some commentary on what it means to be gay, definitely lots of commentary on relationships.  When Paul turns out not be a good father figure and Joni confronts him with the simple "I wish you'd been better."  It sums up his character just about perfectly.  And he's the perfect person to play it - not too earnest, not too needy, not too cute (just right in my opinion) and not too together.  Overall, the five major players in this movie were perfectly cast and gave funny, dramatic performances.  It was the subtle differences that made you momentarily aware this was just a standard family, like when the kids would say "The moms are going to freak out" rather than Mom and Dad are going to freak out.  I think the fact that it was just so smooth made it really easy to relate to the family unit even if it's a kind of family unit with which some might not be intimately familiar.  I left loving the movie and wanting to see it again.  Easily the best movie I've seen in 2010.  I'd be surprised if this movie doesn't have some awards buzz.  5 of 5 stars/lambs

One last thing, the title is "All Right" rather than "Alright", which I think is the idea that kids are figuring things out about gay marriage, parents, relationships, etc. and that things are moving in the right direction, but that's just my own opinion. 

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