Nic and Jules are in a long term, committed, loving but by no means perfect same-sex relationship. Nic, a physician, needs to wield what she believes is control, whereas Jules, under that control, is less self-assured. During their relationship, Jules has floundered in her "nine to five" life, sometimes trying to start a business - always unsuccessfully - or being the stay-at-home mom. She is currently trying to start a landscape design business. They have two teen-aged children, Joni (conceived by Nic) and Laser (by Jules). Although not exact replicas, each offspring does more closely resemble his/her biological mother in temperament. Joni and Laser are also half-siblings, having the same unknown sperm donor father. Shortly after Joni's eighteenth birthday and shortly before she plans to leave the house and head off to college, Laser, only fifteen and underage to do so, pleads with her to try and contact their sperm donor father. Somewhat reluctantly, she does. He is late ... Written by
One real moment is all it takes to make a film worth something, The Kids Are All Right brings it.
OK, so here is what is going on with The Kids Are All Right. When I think of Lesbian couples the image of the family portrayed by the stars of this movie comes to mind. I live in Kentucky so I don't ever really come into contact with any established lesbian couples, but I remember watching this video in a Sociology class about proposition 8 that featured all of these Kentucky based gay couples whose wholesomeness and nuclear family awesomeness were supposed to convince me that gay people should be allowed to adopt kids. For the record it didn't need to because I'm completely for gay people doing anything they want, but if I was ignorant then I might have been convinced. I mean, the couples were perfect, upstanding members of the community, their kids were involved in sports and clubs and they all just screamed 'It's Okay to be Gay and Have Kids!'.
What I most remember is that the families kind of all had this lingering desperation in their smiles, like were trying harder to be happy than most people because they were aware that other people would be judging them based on their ability to be happy under the scrutiny of social judgment. The family in the movie, Nic (Annette Benning), Jules (Julianne Moore), Lazer(Josh Hutcherson), and Joni (Mia Wasilowska), kind of all have that same desperation lingering around them. The film basically centers around what happens when the tension brought on by that added responsibility is broken by the intrusion of an outsider.
That intruder is Mark Ruffalo. I think the evolution of his character is one of the most interesting parts of the film. When we first meet Mark, he's just so cool. Everybody wants to be like him. Relaxed, carefree, seemingly very open and with an uncanny ability to understand and relate to people. He grows vegetables, doesn't hurt the environment and has sex with YaYa from America's Next Top Model. He seems like the opposite of Nic, the uptight, control freak, who's very traditional and leads a very traditional life despite or in spite of her gay lifestyle. So you think, 'oh, this movie is going to be about an outsider coming into a family and repairing the relationships within it'. Nic will loosen up and the kids will be able to open up to people because someone finally understands them. But unfortunately film hasn't been that neat and tidy since the 1930s. In this film, certain things come into play that switches our perspective and we come to identify more with Nic's character than we really expected. But we share sympathy with every character. At the end, we actually have the most sympathy for Mark, I would say.
This switch was unexpected and I think it makes the film special and more worthy than just a farce about a Lesbian couple and a straight guy. The best films are ones in which our expectations are inverted, I think. A film should be like a beautiful unopened flower. The bud is beautiful and then it opens, changes and becomes even more beautiful because of those changes. I know that sounds all preachy and lame but if you can't be preachy and lame on the internet than where can you?
My favorite parts of the film were where I saw flashes of my own relationships portrayed in situations presented by the characters. The conflict between Nic and Jules, where they love each other, accept each other, but clearly don't always like each other, injects the film with humor while at the same time serving as a painful reminder of how hard it is to settle down. That struggle to just continue to like the people you love is portrayed so poignantly in the little digs Nic pokes at Jules every now and again. The frustration they both feel is palpable. And If you have an overbearing mother like I do, than you know how it looks and feels to be shut down by your mom like Laser and Joni are by theirs. After every unintentionally overbearing comment, I was like 'wow, that was a real moment.' I have to say that I was a little disappointed with Laser's character. I feel like his character was so rich in the beginning, but really died away to almost nothing by the end. Just a few archetypal little brother comments thrown in to remind us that he's still there. I feel this way because we spent a lot of time with his character in the beginning, understanding that he's a fifteen year old boy. He's moody. And he's searching for something to define him outside of his mothers. That's undoubtedly why he is initially so passionate about finding his biological father. But though his relationship with Mark is pivotal, it is not really explored as deeply as is Mark's relationship with Joni. Basically his character was traveling to a destination that it just didn't reach. But this could be intentional. Teenagers are supposed to be mysterious and confusing so maybe it's true to his character to leave him unexplored. However, it did disappoint me. I don't know how this movie is going to do during awards season. I assume it will do well, but more because of the trendy subject manner than due to it's merit as a film. I don't know, the film society just votes that way sometimes. But it moved me and that's worth an award to me.
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