If the relationships that anchor Lisa Cholodenko's warmly funny films appear unconventional, their problems--their pleasures--remain universal. In The Kids Are All Right
(no relation to the Who documentary), she takes on a suburban Los Angeles family with two teens, Joni (Alice in Wonderland
's Mia Wasikowska) and the unfortunately named Laser (Josh Hutcherson, The Bridge to Terabithia
), and two mothers, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (an atypically relaxed Julianne Moore), who conceived via artificial insemination. Now that she's heading off to college, Laser urges 18-year-old Joni to seek out their birth father, who lives in the area (her name comes from folksinger Mitchell). Though she hits it off with Paul (Mark Ruffalo, effortlessly charming), a motorcycle-riding restaurant owner, Laser has his doubts (troublingly, the 15-year-old's best friend uses "faggot" as an all-purpose epithet). After they introduce Paul to their parents, allegiances start to shift. While Nic, a doctor, serves as breadwinner (and disciplinarian), Jules, a homemaker-turned-landscape artist, provides the nurturing. Paul, on the other hand, lives free from attachments, inciting both curiosity and suspicion. Furthermore, Jules finds him strangely irresistible, which only expands the fissures in her loving, yet unstable union. As with Laurel Canyon
, Cholodenko doesn't just create fully rounded characters, but entire communities. In the end, Kids
isn't about children vs. adults as much as the family unit vs. the singular outsider. Though the story concludes on a relatively happy note, it's clear where her allegiances lie. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
In The Kids Are All Right, Academy Award nominees Annette Bening and Julianne Moore star in a funny, smart, and vibrant portrait of a modern American family. Nic (Bening) and Jules (More) are your average suburban couple raising their two teens Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), in Southern California. But when the kids secretly track down their donor dad,' Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an unexpected new chapter begins for everyone as family ties are re-defined and then re-re-defined. Fall in love with the big-hearted comedy of The Kids Are All Right.