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The Kids Are All Right
Dir: Lisa Cholodenko
Personal, funny, and heartbreaking all at the same time, The Kids Are All Right is simply wonderful. Simultaneously insightful comedy and realistic drama, it is a frank and heart-warming look into an American family. Nic (Annette Bening) is a devoted wife and mother and a successful OB-GYN. She is married to Jules (Julianne Moore) who has dabbled in various careers here and there, but for the most part has stayed home to take care of their two children. The couple are brilliantly acted by Benning and Moore – their love for their family is apparent in every look and movement.
The children Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) are practically grown up, and are typically beginning to question their parents’ authority and test their independence. In an opening scene Laser watches a friend roughhouse with his dad; realising he lacks this father-son relationship, he asks his sister to contact their biological father, who donated sperm to both mothers. Eventually the children meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo), their father, who turns out to be a self-confident, slightly spacey gardener and restaurant-owner, who rides a motorcycle.
Predictably, the sudden introduction of this new paternal figure causes big changes within the previously content family unit. The film focuses on every relationship in the family: wife-wife, mother-sperm-donor, mother-child, sister-brother, and father-child. It is so refreshing to find a film which depicts complex family ties in a subtle, but fundamentally normal way. Never lingering too long on one character or relationship, the plot reveals the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of each person, painting a colourful portrait of a family in flux, with a humour and grace that are honest and touching. And although the circumstances may not be conventional, we are reminded that the emotions and dynamics in this family are universal, and the issues and emotions ring true.
The quirky script is loaded with sly jokes that make you laugh without pounding you over the head with obvious and over-done humour – for once we have a funny script which leaves you free to pick and choose which bits to laugh at. This is a very Californian movie, from the sunny garden landscapes to the slow, west-coast style of speech, such as Paul exclaiming “right on” to express enthusiasm, or Jules spattering her sentences with “like”. At times the subject matter is rather serious, but the film manages to explore these difficult parts whilst keeping spirits up. The questions raised are honest, the characters feel familiar, and a fantastic soundtrack helps set a comfortable pace for the story. The Kids Are All Right is a feel-good film – so go see it and feel good.
by Emily Searles