Cholodenko with all right kids Hutcherson and Wasikowska at the L.A. premiere
I got to see a screening of Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right (opening July 9 in select cities) and am happy to report that the kids are more than just all right—they're pretty terrific.
Ruffalo & Moore at the premiere; Bening skipped for personal reasons
I was somewhat reluctant about a movie whose premise revolves around a lesbian longtime couple Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) whose family unit is compromised when their sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo) from over 15 years earlier comes back into their lives via their curious kids Laser and Joni (Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska) and begins an affair with one of them. If that example of "lesbians just need a man" isn't enough to turn you off, how about the odd fact that the women's stale sex life is spiced up by watching vintage gay male porn? (I'm aware some women are into this, but how many lesbians are?)
Coming together over dinner
Still, Cholodenko's character-driven script (she co-wrote with Stuart Blumberg) is so filled with insights into the emotions and quirks of the family and of its potential interloper that these potentially annoying aspects feel authentic.
Bening's Nic knows a sexual grifter when she sees one
Bening looks set for another Oscar nomination as prickly, controlling Nic, who self-medicates with wine and whose brittle self-righteousness blooms via passive-aggressive remarks and a growing wave of paranoia that proves to have been right on the money. Nic's annoying, but she's real, and she's lovable eventually because we understand her.
Moore, too, could be nominated for her underachieving, laid-back Jules, a woman who seems to dread the question, "What do you do?" more than anything, and whose decision to fuck a man whose sperm impregnated her in the past is less kinky than psychologically needy.
Both Hutcherson (full disclosure—know him, love him) and Wasikowska are superbly natural, holding their own opposite powerful veterans. Hutcherson's usual wit and slyness are absent in his adorably unguarded Laser, who seems to roll with the punches to the point that he's in danger of being corrupted by a bad-influence friend. Wasikowska's Joni is ethereal, yet her painful desire to leave the nest spiked with her fear of growing up is flesh-and-blood all the way.
Turning back the biological clock
Ruffalo's never been sexier; his late-blooming Paul has started a business and now, unexpectedly, wants a family. Unfortunately, he unthinkingly tries to take the one Nic's built...and Nic is not someone you want to mess around with, even if you do want to mess around with her wife.
My only noteworthy beef with the film is that Paul's transition from awkwardly interested surprise dad to amorously interested surprise cad is abrupt; everyone else's psyche is richly observed, whereas his seems slightly opaque until quite late in the film.
To stay together, families must grow apart—gay or straight
There are so many recognizable moments in this movie for anyone who's been in a long-term relationship, and it doesn't feel like a movie about being gay parents, it feels like a movie about being parents. The familiar elements pile up, leading to a moving conclusion that didn't leave many dry eyes in the all-industry house in which I saw it.
"Hugs!" All moms are embarrassing sometimes...even hip dyke moms
I think The Kids Are All Right will cross over from arthouse to mainstream "awards" movie. You'll be rewarded if it comes anywhere near you...it's kind of like a sperm donor in that way.