on 19 November 2010
That, in the midst of a continuous string of Hollywood-produced superheroes movies, comics adaptations, tired franchises and unnecessary remakes, American cinema can still produce intelligent, mature and thought-provoking films should be cause for celebration. And it's darn entertaining too.
Nic and Jules are in a long-term relationship. They have two teenage kids: Joni and Laser. They clearly love each other, but domestic life - and its myriad small compromises and annoyances - has slowly but surely dulled the happy-family picture. The fact that Nic and Jules are two middle-aged women is neither an issue nor a statement (which by the way is refreshing and welcome). When the sperm-donor is contacted by his children and starts forging a relationship with them, the fragile balance of the whole family is shaken to its core.
This movie is a real delight. The situations and character motivations really rang true. The clever (but never smug) dialogue was delivered in a top-notch fashion by the brilliant cast. Although Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo were pitch-perfect, it's Annette Bening who amazes with a role that at first might appear thankless but ultimately breaks your heart. And congratulations to the two lead-ladies for discarding botox and multi-layered make-up and looking like real women rather than screen icons.
And did I say it was funny? Well, it really is. So if you like your entertaining to have a bit of heart and brain, that should be right up your alley.
on 14 April 2016
It's okay. it could have been better, could have been really good in fact. It didn't explore the issues fully that it was attempting to address, which is a pity. It neither reached heights dramatically or comically. I watched this film twice, once a couple of years ago, and thought it was a complete waste of time, and again last night and saw some merit.
Okay, the affair - this was one of my main issues of contention. I am a gay woman. It quite frankly irritated me that the affair had to be with a man, as though that's all lesbians are really waiting for ultimately. If the character of Jules was bisexual or confused about her sexuality this was never explored or explained. Unfaithfulness, of course is unfaithfulness regardless of whether it's with a man or a woman, that's not what bothered me, just that why a supposedly completely gay woman chose to have an affair with a man was never explained. My personal opinion is that it was to avoid the film being pigeon-holed as a solely LGBT film when pitching to investors. It was its only chance of gaining mainstream acceptance if there was heterosexual interest in there. A quite frankly, I thought, I felt downright stupid, moment came when Jules decided the affair was over, and a smitten Paul (Ruffalo, the "interloper") was on the phone begging Jules to make a go of their relationship. She says "I'm gay!" and slams the phone down as if to say "Jeesh, this guy is so clueless!" Where could he have gotten an idea like her not being gay from!? Gosh I don't know, could it be the fact you've been having sex with him regularly for weeks. Man dismissed without compassion having fallen for her. Good job writers :/
Now, the next area of contention and confusion, the lesbian couple watching gay male porn. This is kind of an in-joke in the gay community, referring to how inauthentically "lesbian" sex is portrayed in mainstream porn, always revolving around a man, and just, well ridiculously acted. Many gay woman say they would actually rather watch two gay men in action, because it seems more realistic, but I don't think many lesbian couples realistically actually watch gay male porn to get their jollies, do they :/ ? Personally I don't watch or like any porn, I find it all nauseating, and to me it just reinforced stereotypes about gay people that I don't care for, alluding to "kinkiness" and really just confusing the mainstream audience the film was trying to appeal to. Like I say it's an in-joke, not sure why it was included when it can only serve to reinforce the kind of stereotypes we are trying to get away from, to an audience that wouldn't get the nuances and humour.
The good aspects- there was a sweetness and familiarity to the family, not perfect, but what family is. I particularly liked Annette Bening's performance as the partner most threatened by the returning donor, who ingratiates himself into their lives more and more, at first she irritated me as the more uptight controlling spouse and parent, but as her marriage breaks down we see a very vulnerable side to her. Julianne Moore is good too, albeit a harder character to fathom, that being the fault of the writers, and not Moore in my opinion.
I saw the Mark Ruffalo character a little more clearly on the second viewing too. Ruffalo brings a tenderness to the performance, that otherwise would be just sleazy, he's not exactly father of the year material, but he genuinely felt a connection with and affection for the kids.
Ultimately it's too flawed to be a good film, but if you are a fan of Bening, Moore or Ruffalo you might find it worth a view to see their performances.
Nic and Jules are lesbian parents in what seems to be a secure and loving relationship. Their children, Joni (18) and the improbably-named Laser (15) are the results of sperm donation, one to Nic, one to Jules. And all is fine until Laser decides he'd like to contact his biological dad, which is done without any hassle at all but which leads to a complex emotional situation and eventually to a can of worms. Paul's presence underlines the weaknesses which have developed over time in the two women's relationship, causing pain and distress to both and confusion (and distress too) to the children. It works itself out and probably all is going to be well, but the difficulties which arise are very human and it is easy to go along with the characters as they try to find ways of resolving them. It is, indeed, an enjoyable and absorbing film.
The two women are nicely characterised. Nic is an able professional, a doctor, with a tendency to manage and control, and it is her salary largely that supports the marriage and the family. Joni, her daughter, is bright, conscientious and hard-working. Jules is a freer spirit who has never really settled to any career or profession (currently she is keen to start up as a landscape gardener). Right at the beginning of the film she brings home a truck she has bought for this purpose and immediately we see Nic's wariness about this purchase - Jules has put money (not her own) into such things before without sustained success. Laser, Jules's son, is good at sport, but his application to school work does not match Joni's. These are simply differences, but when things become strained, they also become issues.
The effect of the film is greatly enhanced by the superb acting of all five principals, Annette Bening as Nic, Julianne Moore as Jules, Mia Masikowska as Joni, Josh Hutcherson as Laser and Mark Ruffalo as Paul. Bening and Moore in particular are extraordinary in close-up at tense or emotional moments, completely compelling. There is for example a sequence in which we see first a dinner party, a very happy affair, warm and human, followed immediately by, for her character, a horrifying, unthinkable discovery in which Annette Bening's performance, often in tight close-up, is almost unbearably human, poignant and true. The film is not judgemental and all the characters learn from what they do and what happens to them. It is intelligently scripted, well directed and, as I said, beautifully acted. In addition, it ends very movingly, with Joni going off to college. This is a film about decent people caught in a hard place, not always knowing what to do and hurting each other as a result ; but their decency and need - I should say love - for each other brings them through in the end. I liked it very much.
A gentle, sensitive, intelligent, bittersweet comedic examination about what it is to be a family.
Annette Benning and Julianne Moore are the `moms' of this family whose domestic routine is turned upside down when their daughter and son invite their previously anonymous sperm donor dad into their lives. Mark Ruffalo is a likeable, amiable man but underlying tensions soon rise to the surface. Much of the humour is verbally sharp, occasionally farcical, with more than a touch of pathos, as Benning increasingly begins to resent the growing influence of this interloper who gradually realises what has been missing in his life. The director skilfully allows us to appreciate each character's perspective, not least that of the two `kids', Mia Wasikawska and Josh Hutcherson who hold their own in the company of three more experienced actors.
on 2 October 2011
This film looked interesting. the concept was worth exploring but unfortunately it was plain boring. The characters were unlikable and Mark Ruffalo normally such a fine actor seemed to be embarrassed he was making this film and it showed.
This film lacked direction and never really seemed to know what its aim was.
A real shame.
on 2 November 2010
The Kids Are All Right might be mistaken for a breezy rom-com; and, although the script, direction and performances come across as effortless, this is mostly serious drama. It might also be mistaken for a "message" movie, given that its two main protagonists are gay. But, thankfully, the assertion that a family presided over by lesbian parents may be just as neurotic and chaotic as the hetero equivalent is implicit.
Briefly, the plot involves the teenage kids (Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska) of Jules and Nic (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) seeking their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). So begins a series of events which craftily upend our expectations of the genre, and mock our assumptions about alternative lifestyles. Rarely has American film furnished us with a more convincing argument for familial conservatism.
Despite being filmed in just three weeks, the performances are across-the-board excellent. Mia Wasikowska climbs out of her Alice (as in Wonderland) shoes to embody the fragile optimism of teenage transition. Bening, as the leader and conservative voice of the household, and Moore, as her passionate, wayward partner, are pictures of subtlety, nuance and bittersweet humour.
Mark Ruffalo produces what may be a career-best performance. His Paul at once demands our admiration; but despite his ostensible sense of social responsibility, his is a painful path out of solipsism - not so much a journey of self-discovery, but rather one of discovering how the emotional world works.
See it just for the scene in which Nic opens her heart at the dinner table by singing Joni Mitchell, binding the family in a moment of rare, pristine clarity, only to be dealt a cruel sucker-punch in the bathroom two minutes later. It's one of the most dramatically-fulfilling scenes in one of the year's best movies.
It is brilliant the way this film, which could be so earnest and politically correct, takes the opposite stance and presents us with a family where people are not acting perfectly but do seem very human with flaws we can all recognise. In fact I would imagine infidelity in the situation shown - with the biological father of your child, who you have not actually met - would be more likely to occur than in other circumstances, as your lives are already so intimately linked. But I don't know, really ... ! The refreshing attitude towards the characters means that they can at times come close to talking in an absurd, 'New-Agey' way without our being sure quite how we are intended to take this, but again I imagine it is meant to be funny ... in fact it is riotous! This doesn't stop them being highly likeable and able to move us when things go wrong. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are both so good, they really have done something important for lesbian families by acting in this film (as has Lisa Cholodenko by writing and directing it so brilliantly). And Mark Ruffalo does a very good job in a role that could have lost our sympathy, but doesn't. The confrontation between the women when the truth comes out is heartbreaking, the tenderness and hurt are so real. To then open the door and find the children listening outside I thought was very moving, and it was spoilt by people laughing in the cinema. At least on DVD you don't have to put up with this kind of thing! It is a mark of the film's achievement that it can effortlessly go from this to moments of farcical comedy, often involving sex, which the film presents without any inhibition ... and you feel, in spite of the crisis, that the kids really are all right. Really, a great film!
on 3 April 2011
God-awful movie. Sanctimonious, inauthentic, poorly cast.
Perhaps it wouldn't have been so terrible had the characters relationships been believable. Alas, Julian Moore and Annette Bening share no lesbian chemistry. The fact that they are both superb actresses can't save it.
Mark Ruffalo is given an insipid character to play. The fact that he's a superb actor can't save it either.
Midway an even more ill-matched relationship develops which is even more unbelievable -- at that point my suspension of disbelief snapped and I went out and walked the dog.
I expect that people may wish to see this film expecting to find a cult 'You Can Count on Me' or 'We Don't Live Here Anymore'. If so, they could not be more wrong.
(Both kids play excellent roles by the way, so my review title is clearly wrong.)
on 24 March 2011
Before I am drawn and quartered for this negative review, I would respectfully ask that people consider the points that I raise.
I have great respect for both Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, both of whom I believe to be undervalued actors deserving of a great deal more recognition than they currently have. This was one of the reasons I wanted to enjoy this movie, as I believe they both have the ability to accurately portray the sensitivity and complexity of this story. The other reason is that I believe in the movies message. Children of gay parents are as normal and well rounded, as their normal and well-rounded heterosexual counterparts. One does not have to look that far to see this truth in action. In fact, I am reminded of the moving testimony of Zach Wahls at the Iowa public hearings on same sex marriage, which brought this fundamental truth to the forefront of this tragic debate. I use the word 'tragic' for no other reason, than to emphasis the absurdity of why this is even a debate. Gay men and women have been raising children since time memorial, the only difference now is that they want to do so within an environment of equality, true to themselves and their children, free from intolerance and the social judgment of those that do not agree. In the words of Zach Wahls, "the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character."
This is an important message, which is neither underplayed nor frivolously dealt with in this movie. If anything that message comes across both sincere and factual, with great performances from all the actors involved. That aside I cannot help but wonder whether our sense of political correctness, has swung full circle to the extent that we tolerate failings out of fear of being labelled anti-gay or uninformed? Indeed human sexuality is a complex thing, and as a scholar of that reality I am the first to admit that sexuality is not something that fits into either a finite label or understanding. It is as complex as we are human, and as many variants as there is human experience and creativity.
What I cannot accept about this movie is that it ultimately descends into arbitrary and unfounded stereotypes, which ultimately distort or at the very least has the potential of distorting the manner in which lesbian mothers are perceived by a mixed audience. Whilst I am prepared to accept that homosexual partners (like heterosexuals) have affairs, and that these affairs may involve people of the opposite sex, I remain skeptical about the motivations espoused by Julianne Moore's character in this instance. Its smacks of melodrama, for the sake of melodrama.
Any child that has experienced the infidelity of a parent, and lived through the consequence of such on both their and their parent's lives cannot emerge 'just alright'. Children of homosexual parents are not exempt from such upheaval, and like any other child will be profoundly affected. Any one who has been involved or worked within the formal fertility sector, knows that there are strict provisions in place to protect the identity of the donor as well as the recipients of such donation. These privacy veils are not easily lifted, and when they are they come with a entire set complexities and challenges, guaranteed to stretch even the most ardent and well adjusted soul. Yet this does not seem to be the case in this movie, as the children reach out to their previously unknown father, almost as if they need such union to be alright. This is in my opinion, a profound anomaly that undermines the message of the movie. Does it do so fatally, probably not but one cannot help but wonder whether the purpose and story was lost by incorporating unnecessary melodrama.
I also remain confused as to why the director would feel the need to introduce gay male porn into the bedroom of two lesbian women. Is this a reality within the lesbian community, and if so, to what extent? Even if it does happen, then what relevance does it have to this message and this story? I must however, confess that my knowledge in this regard is limited as the only women that have ever told me that they watch gay porn (male on male) are heterosexual by their own definition. Even if some lesbian women do find this arousing, what relevance does it have to this story? What is the nexus between the bedroom scene, and the ultimate message being told?
Ultimately i question whether this movie succeeds? Has it been afforded far too much credibility, and is really that good? Sure it has two wonderful actors, who do not fail in either of their portrayals. It is also a story which is both moving and profound. It is however, not beyond reproach and its inherent failing, has the potential of undermining the very message it purports to give.
In the end I was both disappointed and unconvinced.
Nic & Jules are a long-term couple with a family. Each conceived a child by the same sperm donor and these children Joni and Laser are now 18 & 15. The younger, curious about his biological father, asks the elder to enquire with the agency their parents used, about contact. This leads to a meeting with bio-dad, the easy-going Paul, and so on to all 3 biological parents meeting. All of this is played out against a period of change where Joni is about to leave home for college and Jules is branching out after a long period as the home-maker.
The strongest part of the film is Nic & Jules relationship, with its realistic portrayal of a deep bond but also their differences, niggles and insecurities that anyone in a long-term relationship can identify with. Their children's relationships with each other and their moms are important too. In this self-contained environment Paul's appearance could be a breath of fresh air or an unwelcome intrusion. All the different view points are covered in a plausible way as the story unfolds.
An interesting and touching film.