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155 out of 257 people found the following review useful:

flat story, great actors

Author: stycz from United States
18 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The only reason I didn't give this a 1 (awful) is because the actors worked so hard to raise the material to something more than drek.

The characters of Nic and Jules are written as such caricatures that I can only applaud Annette Bening and Julianne Moore for bringing their own humanity to try and give them life.

The writing didn't even deal with the initial impetus for finding the bio-dad - the son's feeling that something was missing and maybe it was a need for a male in his life. Nothing much was developed with this at all.

The most offensive writing, I felt, was in the character of Paul - the sperm donor. The kids initiated the reconnection - they went looking for him, not vice versa; and Jules did not hesitate to respond to his reaction to her as an attractive woman. Yet Jules was allowed at the end, to grovel family style, and apologize for her actions - and we believe the family will once again forgive and embrace her.

Paul, who found himself attracted to the two kids he helped create and to one of the bio-moms, is castrated and cast aside by Nic at the front door when he comes to make a similar apology.

I don't think this movie represents the many same sex couples with kid type families as they would lead you to believe. These characters are all in need of serious counseling.

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138 out of 234 people found the following review useful:

Barely Mediocre

Author: jrcham94 from United States
28 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Director Lisa Cholodenko, who gave us the marvelous "Laurel Canyon", assembles a killer cast (including national treasures Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, along with Mark Ruffalo and terrific young actor Mia Wasikowska) and addresses a promising premise (kids of lesbian moms meet their sperm donor dad). What could possibly go wrong? Shockingly, in this case, just about everything.

This is not the fault of the actors. Moore and Bening are clearly committed to creating complex, sympathetic portraits of the kids' parents, Jules and Nic. Ruffalo attempts to breathe life into his role as the hapless sperm donor. Wasikowsa tries to convey the maturation of a young person about to strike out on her own.

The problem - and it is a serious one - is that the script gives the actors nothing to work with. Cholodenko, who co-wrote the screenplay, can't make up her mind whether she's directing a slice-of-life family drama, a satiric portrait of stereotypical characters, or a sex farce. She succeeds only in creating a confusing mess that works as none of the above.

Things go badly early, when Jules and Nic have a cringe-inducing sex scene featuring (male) gay porn. From there, the two constantly "process" their feelings. But it's unclear whether Cholodenko intends for this to be satiric or realistic; I don't think the actors have a clue. Things get worse when Jules, for petty reasons, humiliates and then fires a Latino gardener. If the purpose were to showcase some inner complexity of her character, that would be one thing. But, incredibly, the scene is played for laughs, as if the audience should find Jules' cruel behavior funny.

Since Cholodenko seems to have nothing to say about her characters, the plot is propelled by absurd turns of events that make no internal sense to the film. Absurdity piles upon absurdity, leaving the viewer more aghast than drawn in.

For her part, Bening attempts to make sense of the shrill, control-freak character she plays. But, in doing so, she seems to be at cross-purposes with her director. The problem is that in making Nic as real as she can, Bening creates someone utterly unsympathetic. But Cholodenko seems to want the viewer to like and identify with this character. The result is that you just don't care.

The film never really goes anywhere. The thin plot has a tacked-on ending that comes out of nowhere. I was just glad that it was over.

I can't overstate how disappointed I was by this film's waste of talent. And by its waste of a topical premise that had the potential to give movie-goers a meaningful alternative to what passes for film entertainment in Hollywood today. Sadly, unless you want to see good actors flail about with an embarrassing script, I strongly urge you to stay away from this film.

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78 out of 119 people found the following review useful:

One real moment is all it takes to make a film worth something, The Kids Are All Right brings it.

Author: brielle_jalexa9 from United States
4 January 2011

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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54 out of 76 people found the following review useful:

The Kids - and this Movie - Aren't All Right

Author: flickernatic from United Kingdom
23 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is an entertaining movie worth seeing, at times funny, at times moving, but one that fails, frustratingly, to exploit its potential.

Nic and Jules are a lesbian couple, each with a teenage child fathered by the same anonymous sperm donor, Paul. Their children decide to contact their father and he enters, rather awkwardly, in to the family's lives. Nic and Jules' relationship is loving but passionless - they resort to watching gay porn in bed but even this fails to produce a spark - and before long, Jules and Paul become energetic lovers who meet repeatedly to pursue their affair. Paul, who has never settled into a relationship, finds that he has fallen in love with Jules. He also discovers that the children he fathered so anonymously now mean everything to him. He wants to find a way to continue the relationship with his 'kids' and Jules. But, despite the positives he has brought to them, ultimately he is rejected by them all. Nic, Jules and the kids resume their previous lives while Paul is left out in the cold.

The dramatic situation created by Paul's arrival, his affair with Jules and its effects on Nic and the 'kids' is potentially very interesting and worth exploring. Unfortunately, the theme is treated at best half-seriously, as if Hollywood can't cope with this topic without making it into a comedy. The inclusion of several explicit sex scenes is also a distraction which adds nothing to the story. Most disappointing of all is the ending; this seemed a cop-out. Jules is clearly bi-sexual but she suddenly claims that she is all-lesbian; Nic seems barely troubled by Jules's startling lapse; the 'kids' are overly keen to reject Paul; and all this appears to be designed to produce an old-fashioned 'happy ending' in which the lesbian couple and their children return to everyday life as if nothing had happened (what?!) - except Paul, that is, who is told to 'go and find your own family'. Are, then, the 'kids' 'all right'? On the contrary, their parents' antics appear to have left them in a dreadful mess. Maybe we are supposed to take the title ironically.

On the plus side, the acting is generally good, although Mark Ruffalo does too much mumbling and Julianne Moore tends to over-act. The outstanding performance for me was from Mia Wasikowska as the daughter, Joni.

But this would have been a far better, more memorable and thought-provoking movie if it had followed through more courageously. I'm sure Jimmy McGovern would have done it a whole lot better!

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87 out of 142 people found the following review useful:

Making heroes out of the wrong characters!

Author: Hellmant from United States
14 October 2010

'THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

This indie critical darling is one of the best reviewed movies of the year and up until the climax I thought it was a pretty impressive little film. It is a well acted and realistic character study though with the likes of Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hutcherson and 'ALICE IN WONDERLAND's Mia Wasikowska. It's directed and co-written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg (who also wrote 'KEEPING THE FAITH' and co-wrote 'THE GIRL NEXT DOOR', which I'm a big fan of both). The acting is all impressive, especially Ruffalo and Bening. Moore is good but she's been much better, maybe it's just the character she's playing here that doesn't give her as much to work with. The directing is adequate and fitting to the material and the screenplay is full of natural and believable characters and dialog. Even the ending, which I didn't like, seems believable it's just that it turns the film into a much less valuable learning lesson.

The film tells the story of Joni (Wasikowska) and Laser (Hutcherson) a brother and sister conceived through artificial insemination by their unhappy mothers Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore). Joni is Nic's biological daughter and Laser is Jule's biological son and they were both conceived from the same sperm donor Paul (Ruffalo). On her eighteenth birthday, when she's legally able to do so without the consent of her mother, Joni contacts her biological father and she and Laser meet him secretly. Later their mothers find out about this and before allowing them to see him again demand to meet him as well. Nic, the controlling working mother, is very upset by the sudden involvement of Paul in her children lives but Jules (who has mostly been a stay at home mom) warms to him after he hires her to design and construct his back yard. Paul is a free spirited, fun loving co-op farmer and restaurant owner. This clashes with Nic but the rest of the family enjoys spending time with him and he really learns to love them as well. Complications arise.

I was really fascinated by all of the characters and learned to really like them, all except for maybe Nic who was just a little to controlling and self righteous (but believable). Paul to me was the most relate-able and likable character and the story and growth of all of the characters kind of revolve around him. Without giving away too much the movie ends in conflict and one of the characters is sort of used and abused and left with a lot of unfair judgment placed upon him. It is realistic and believable though it just seems like the movie is making heroes out of the wrong characters and villains out of others, that don't deserve it. This left me very much disappointed in the movie as a whole and that's why I can't overwhelmingly recommend it.

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63 out of 96 people found the following review useful:

The Adults are not

Author: doctorsmoothlove from United States
18 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I hated The Kids are all Right. I haven't had such a difficult time not walking out of a theater since I began writing reviews. Shame on me for not having the courage to do it. The movie unknowingly teases its subject matter while simultaneously making a redundant argument (that any reasonable person already understands) for it. The film has aggressive tone, which makes sitting through its pretentious offenses all the more unbearable.

Director Lisa Cholodenko, who is openly lesbian, has created a story that supposedly espouses the abilities of gay families to survive external (heterosexual) threats. This plot is a reaction to early 2000's conservative propaganda about the looming "gay" presence that would breakup families. As we have learned in less than a decade, gay people haven't destroyed straight families. The anti-gay movement also failed because straight people realized this. The sharp sexual identity barrier in The Kids are all Right is entirely outdated. As a member of the gay community, Cholodenko should have reworked the story. There are more contemporary issues to discuss.

What unfolds is a series of events culturally-aware citizens should find unnecessary. Nic and Jules are a middle aged lesbian couple with two children from the same sperm donor. They have been married for a long time, and have settled into traditional family roles. Nic is a physician and Jules is a stay-at-home mom. They have two children nearing college age. Joni, the older one, has turned 18 and inquires about her biological father on behalf of her half-brother Laser. They meet Paul, a handsome restaurant owner, who becomes a regular around the house. He of course begins having an affair with Jules who is estranged from her wife over the children's discovery. The threat is eliminated when the affair is discovered and Nic forgives the family for her rude behavior. Jules apologizes too. The family comes back together.

The film's greatest offense is in its treatment of Jules. For what purpose does her affair have to be with a man? Why are all the sex scenes so purposefully stylized? Why do we not see her being intimate with her wife, if we even needed to see sex? The movie falls right into the chauvinistic idea that women's homosexual tendencies are really just suppressions of heterosexual feelings.

As a story that features a gay couple, which is only a small percentage of all couples, it doesn't cater to its premise. This could be a standard family values story if it involved a straight couple, or if Jules had an affair with a woman. It could make a similar statement if it was about a likely situation a gay family with children would face. Humor is instead inserted at random intervals to atone for the lack of something else to say. Tension is turned on and off, which is the movie's admission that it has no idea of the subculture it depicts or it doesn't care about it.

There is a real lack of meaningful gay films within a family setting. Filmmakers need to very much consider and investigate the day-to-day lives of gay single or two-parent households and present a situation that straight people would not understand. This will educate people about the hardships these types of families endure. What we don't need is this untailored piece of trash that finds humor in its own insensitivity.

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60 out of 94 people found the following review useful:

Wasted Effort

Author: hood_james_m from United States
27 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Warning! - Spoilers Below! I wasn't watching this movie, my girlfriend was and I found myself drawn into it. The actors were good and I believed their characters. It was an interesting story to delve into, a lesbian couple that had a couple kids with a sperm donor and the kids, now about college age pursue finding out who their "father" is. Nice premise. The "donor" turns out to be kind of a "live life lightly" type who is taken by surprise by this turn of events in his life and over time develops a bunch of emotions he was not expecting at all towards the kids and the idea of having this kind of connection with other human beings. It's nice to see this change in him. His demeanor is quite different than one of the parents and the other seems attracted to this (insinuating there are some issues in their marriage). Now all is still well in the story. The donor seems a positive influence on the kids and he seems genuinely touched and is changing as a person. One of the parents seems jealous and the other seems happy with everything. Then, the story gets a little nutty with one of the parents basically jumping the donor's bones rather exuberantly (sp?) over and over again. Only once she is caught cheating does she end the relationship and apologizes to the family. She is quickly forgiven and he is quickly dismissed by everyone in the family as the bad guy. Huh? What just happened? It was quite shocking. There were so many good story lines being developed and it all just ended in a completely illogical way. I was very upset that I got drawn in only to be dumped like wet cement... or like the donor dad was. I gave this movie 1 star, but the actors were really good and the movie starts and develops so well. The ending was so bad, I want directors to have to apply for a license so they don't break our hearts. Haha, just kidding... hopefully this Director can learn some lessons from this and get better. There is obviously talent there, but learn to close the deal!

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85 out of 148 people found the following review useful:

Cholodenko's Funny, Mature Look at a Nuclear Family Has Universal Appeal

Author: Ed Uyeshima from San Francisco, CA, USA
22 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nora Ephron could take a few cues from Lisa Cholodenko ("Laurel Canyon") on how to write and direct a movie about a recognizable human dilemma and the characters who have to deal with it. Now that I have seen this 2010 dramedy, I feel that this is basically the film that Ephron was trying to make with her 2009 Meryl Streep vehicle, "It's Complicated", a far more conventional comedy that took a long-estranged couple and threw a monkey wrench into their arrangement by introducing a plot device that had them reigniting embers they didn't realize still existed between them. In Cholodenko's film, the situation appears more unique - the long-standing couple, Jules and Nic, is lesbian, and the complicating factor is Paul, the common biological father who provided the sperm that produced their two children, Nic's 18-year-old daughter Joni and Jules' 15-year-old son Laser.

Ironically, however, the treatment here, co-written with Stuart Blumberg, is far more textured and universal here than in Ephron's dependence on tired stereotypes and slapstick. The superb performances don't hurt either. The multi-layered story feels like a series of illuminations about these five characters. It begins when Joni and Laser decide to track down their sperm donor father without consulting their mothers. Paul turns out to be an easygoing, LA-style restaurateur and organic farmer, and as he begins to insinuate himself into the family's life, the director exposes the confused feelings of a family toward someone who's intractably part of them yet a complete stranger. Jules is intrigued, while Nic is suspicious and increasingly angry at someone she views as an interloper. At the same time, Cholodenko focuses attention on how Joni and Laser discover themselves sexually in a gay family with much of the comedy comes at the expense of Nic and Jules, who spice up their sex life with gay porn.

Without resorting to stereotypes, the film succeeds in making this family seem quite ordinary with the kids constantly embarrassed by their moms' emotionalism and need for order. Jules and Nic have a marriage that looks like any straight one of twenty years duration. A certain brittleness has crept into Annette Bening's work of late, although the approach works well in her well-etched portrayal of Nic. She has a particularly strong dinner table scene where she is finally seduced by Paul's laid-back charms, sings a woozy rendition of Joni Mitchell's "All I Want", makes a shocking discovery in the bathroom, and then returns to the table in an engulfing haze of silent disappointment. As Paul, Mark Ruffalo appears to be doing a variation of the ne'er-do-well character he played in "You Can Count on Me" but gives him a shaggy, SoCal veneer of materialistic success.

In a turn that reminds me a bit of "Annie Hall"-circa Diane Keaton, Julianne Moore plays the character that experiences the biggest arc in the story - nurturing and self-reflective one minute, spontaneous and regretful the next. For an actress often at home in period roles that require her to express repression, this feels like her most liberating work. As Joni, Mia Wasikowska - superb in Tim Burton's redux of "Alice in Wonderland" earlier this year - has the coltish manner of a young Gwyneth Paltrow and brings lucidity to her maturing character. Growing up from his cherubic turns in "Little Manhattan" and "The Bridge to Terabithia", Josh Hutcherson appears to be graduating to troubled adolescent roles with ease. Yaya DaCosta is so strikingly beautiful as the girl Paul conveniently keeps at bay that you almost overlook the serene presence she brings to her scenes. Cholodenko has no problem filming graphic lovemaking scenes, and they don't feel gratuitous to the story. It's rare when a film manages to be funny, mature and involving as this one does.

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74 out of 129 people found the following review useful:

Terrible plot

Author: daniseb from United States
19 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I agree with the other reviewers who found this movie UGHHH! They are so right on with their comments. Here's mine. I was expecting to see a movie about a family that meets the sperm donor of the kids and how their relationship develops. But no, it's about showing people having sex over and over again. The premise just does not make sense to me. Why would a lesbian woman feel an immediate animal attraction to a man she just met and jump in the bed with him for wild sex? And repeat every day until she gets caught? This movie could have been really good if it had explored meaningful relationships instead of just sex, sex, sex. What's up with that? Julianne, Annette, and Mark R. are such great actors, what were they thinking when they agreed to do this movie? Is this all they think movie goers want to see? People having sex? Excuse me but we can rent other movies for that, like the lesbians do in the movie! What a waste of great talent!

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36 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

The Kids May Be All Right But The Adults Are Awful!

Author: jminde from United States
1 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This started out as a warm, funny film about an unconventional family. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play Nic and Jules, the two Moms. They have raised a daughter, Joni (after Joni Mitchell) and a son, Laser (after the sailing dinghy?) whom they each conceived with sperm from the same donor, making the kids biological half-siblings.

Joni is eighteen and college-bound. Laser is fifteen, and getting into trouble with his troubled friend Clay, who uses the word "faggot" too much, mildly physically abuses him, and knows no boundaries (in one scene he appropriates Nic and Jules' sex toy).

Out of curiosity (and in Laser's case in need of an older male role model) the kids seek out their biological father Paul (Mark Ruffalo). The unattached Paul is a bit of a free spirit who owns an organic restaurant. Although he is at first bemused by the fact of having children, he is soon an enthusiastic participant in Laser's and Joni's lives.

Nic reacts badly. She is the breadwinner, the disciplinarian, and a bit of a control freak who immediately objects to Paul. When nobody pays her any mind, she becomes ill-tempered and begins drinking heavily. Jules is the stay-at-home partner, more passive and more pliant. As Nic withdraws and becomes ever more disagreeable, Jules seduces Paul. For his part, Paul is thrilled to be part of the family, and begins to build castles in the air around his relationship with Jules and the children.

Up until this point (about 5/6ths of the movie) this is a good-natured story of an atypical family facing a complex relationship issue. The last sixth of the movie melts down to slag, costing it at least three stars, because THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT suddenly transforms into a hideous anti-male diatribe.

The affair comes out. Although Jules instigated it and admits to doing so, Paul is utterly demonized. She is not. Jules breaks off the affair ("I'm gay. Damn you."), and Nic calls him a "F*****g interloper." The kids (particularly Laser) reject him outright. "I thought you'd be better," Joni sneers.

It was at about this point that I seriously considered shattering this DVD with a hammer. The utter callousness and cruelty of Joni, Laser, Nic and Jules toward Paul is truly nauseating. Not one of these self-absorbed Hollywood standard-issue Yuppie characters ever considers for a single moment that it is THEY who have brought Paul into their lives. Neither Nic nor Jules has the depth or honesty to understand that they have both manipulated and used Paul to work out underlying and long-standing issues in their own relationship. The dour Laser, in rejecting this caring male figure, probably dooms himself to forming attachments with troublesome and abusive males like Clay who will dominate him for years to come. Joni escapes the nest. The "happy ending" of this vindictive film consists of Nic and Jules rebonding. Paul has vanished, broken.

This film was obviously written by a male-bashing, self-hating woman who chooses to portray all lesbians as stereotypically dysfunctional man-haters and all men as garbage.

The film's homophobia is manifest in that the women are controlling, manipulative, dishonest, insensitive and abusing without a scintilla of self-awareness.

In retrospect, this movie's unbending hatred of men is evident at the outset (what parent names their son "Laser"?). Male behavior is seen as destructive and irresponsible and weak (Paul, the "sperm donor," has no family; Clay urinates on a dog's head at one point; Jules fires the gardener, the only eyewitness to her infidelity, for no real reason at all in some twisted act of expiation, and he slinks off without a single word). In short, this "warm family comedy-drama" turns into a jeremiad against those of us who are so-called cursed with testosterone. Frankly, for me it's a blessing. I'd rather be Paul than be any of the four vicious losers in this film.

This vile film was a big hit at Sundance, a Golden Globe winner, and an Academy Award nominee, I have to believe largely because of its oh-so Politically Correct portrayal of a married gay family. I will credit Bening, Moore Ruffalo and the kids with some splendid acting. Ruffalo in particular, deserves a combat medal for surviving this role psychologically intact. Obviously, the critics chose to overlook the unrelieved darkness and negativity that drips like poison from this film.

Once more, cruelty passes for entertainment in the 2010s. Forget it.

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