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The Kids - and this Movie - Aren't All Right
flickernatic23 November 2010
Warning: 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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One real moment is all it takes to make a film worth something, The Kids Are All Right brings it.
brielle_jalexa94 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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The Kids is OK.
st-shot7 August 2011
Products of same parents different mothers inquisitive teens Joni and Laser seek out their biological father. Paul (Mark Ruffalo) turns out to be a likable laid back vacillator that the kids would like to have more of in their lives. Nic (Annette Benning) a focused doctor is cautious while Jules (Julliane Moore) more free wheeling in the mode of Paul connects with him in more ways than one.

Kids is a basic dramedy of bump in the road marital discord enhanced by the changing make- up of today's nuclear family. The same problems of raising a family and maintaining individual identity within the unit are dealt with here as in any union but with the added dynamic of same gender partners struggling with traditional heterosexual hurdles.

As lovers and parents Moore and Benning are excellent as they display a nice comfortable chemistry with each other, casually defining and revealing the problems in the relationship without hysteria. Opposites in many ways Benning's Nic is rigid but pliable, Moore's Jules free spirited but conflicted; yet they balance each other well as long time companions. Ruffalo's Paul has a nice irresponsible charm at first that allows him to inveigle his way into the family setting momentarily by winning over the kids and Jules as well as a grudging respect from Nic.

Director Lisa Cholodenko maintains a spry enough pace by moving from character to character without bogging down in the superfluous chatter that devoured Laurel Canyon and along with a trio of winning performances to carry it along "The Kids.." is a lot better than all right.
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The Adults are not
doctorsmoothlove18 October 2010
Warning: 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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flat story, great actors
stycz18 July 2010
Warning: 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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Wasted Effort
hood_james_m27 November 2010
Warning: 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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The Kids May Be All Right But The Adults Are Awful!
jminde1 April 2011
Warning: 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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Making heroes out of the wrong characters!
Hellmant14 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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Barely Mediocre
jrcham9428 May 2010
Warning: 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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Wasted Potential
tex-4219 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Much like one character says to another in this film, they just hate seeing wasted potential. The Kids Are All Right is a movie saved only by the acting. The storyline is clunky and at times nonsensical, and you get the sense after finishing the movie that a lot has been missed without any proper kind of resolution.

To start with the good: Julianne Moore and Annette Bening own their roles. They take what could easily be two poorly developed characters and make them a lot more human than the script calls for them to be. The actors playing the children also shine as they experience the hurt that can be caused when you make life-changing decisions haphazardly.

Sadly, the bad is plenty in this film. What could be an interesting storyline, children of a lesbian couple finding their biological father and attempting a relationship with him while their mothers' relationship goes through a rough patch quickly descends into weird melodrama that is resolved in the most unsatisfactory way possible. Oddly, the biological father is the one who ends up being punished the most seriously, despite the fact he was not the one who initiated the whole thing, and his bad acts are more than matched by those of the other characters.

In short, I would say to give this movie a viewing, but merely for the acting. That should keep anyone watching from expecting too much.
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Really really bad
mariondowning-427-4693443 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Pointless insulting movie.

Two lesbians have kids, then the two kids want to know who their father is...they find out. The mothers invite him to dinner for some bizarre and unnecessary reason. The "father" comes along, plays house and tries to be the father while pushing one of the mothers out of the picture (then has sex with the other mother).

For a film that is supposed to be about intelligent "liberal" lesbians, this sure makes them look uninformed and naïve. What enlightened person has sex with someone they aren't attracted to because they "want to be appreciated" as the cheating mother said rather than being a grown up and talking to your partner about needing to be appreciated?

As for the "father"... What man who donates sperm really wants to spend the rest of his life with the result of that donation without even knowing them at all beyond fun moments over food etc? What man wants to raise someone else's kids purely because they're fun? What lesbian woman wants to have sex with a man (let alone one she hardly knows beyond him complimenting her)?

What was the point of this movie? The only thing different at the end is that the kids know who their "father" is and now hate him, while their mothers are still their mothers and one of them is leaving home. Pointless and can only be seen as a token film about; A) Lesbian parent families with token making out between women B) Men being evil, opportunistic and big kids who are OK to know, but not OK to have around too long or they try to steal your lesbian partner and kids. And, C) Lesbian love prevailing in the end while the kids forgive cheating mom.

Seems like it was written by a lesbian who doesn't know many men and a man who is channeling his inner Big Daddy who wants fun kids and a wife he doesn't even know (while having no kids and wife in reality). was written by a lesbian and a man channeling his inner Big Daddy...move along nothing to see.
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Cholodenko's Funny, Mature Look at a Nuclear Family Has Universal Appeal
Ed Uyeshima22 July 2010
Warning: 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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One sided tripe
RexWriter11 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I got to the end of this movie and didn't feel a thing. During Juliane Moore's big apology at the end all I could keep thinking was that it's just another apology. This movie should have been called "The Kids are, I'm Sorry". It took until the next morning to hit me. So Nic is a nasty crank; I'm sorry (apology accepted). Jules sleeps (repeatedly) with Paul; I'm sorry (apology accepted). Paul sleeps with Jules; I'm Sorry... reply? Eff you! I couldn't figure out why Paul came off so flat. I kept thinking that his motivations and responses were, well, off. Jules wasn't happy with Nic. That was the problem, not Paul. If it wasn't Paul, it would have been something else. So Paul, who really has no kind of motivation, no dream or expectations (convenient for the writer) is just there to push the buttons. So I thought, who could create two strong characters like Nic and Jules, yet not really have a clue about the motivation and emotions of men. I jokingly thought "a lesbian". And then I get to work and look this up. Bingo. I guess "write what you know" fits here. Except Paul. Paul turns out to be the exclamation point to the sentence: WE DON"T NEED MEN! That was all he was there for. And, frankly, its hurtful. This character was built out of hurt and anger of the writer. This writer has no idea about the internal workings of men. Paul has no direction, no motivation. So I would like to take a moment for Paul. You have met your biological spawn and wish to have a relationship. You slept with one of the mothers and hurt that relationship. You regret, just like everyone else in this story, so, apology accepted. So that was one star (since that is the lowest we can go). The other is for the actors that tried to save this one sided compost.
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Almost Took Off... But Landed With a Bad Thud of Less Than Alright
ken55816 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Started out promising with lots of new grounds to explore, nudged along by fine acting by all. With so much going for it one would expect it to take off wonderfully but it never really did, just coasting along... then out of nowhere came the cliché and the Hollywood pandering - the lesbian and the sperm donor had sex and more sex without reason without context, entirely at a whim which absolutely trivializes the characterization and the plot.

The way those two characters were built on, together with the entire context of the situation, that sex was totally silly, plain, unrealistic and turned the whole movie into another Hollywood joke. It clowns and dumbs down everything and basically tells the audience to just forget about taking this movie as something fresh, innovative, daring - it falls into that trap of cheap easy thrills seen a thousand and one times in any 'ol trite Hollywood movie.

It redeemed itself somewhat - but only just - towards the end... but the harm had been done. No fine acting by any of this cast could cover the ordinariness the plot has thrown itself into. A waste.
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Terrible plot
daniseb19 August 2010
Warning: 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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Dysfunctional family that looked like it exists only in Hollywood
Kong Ho Meng18 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I seriously hope that this film would not garner anymore Oscar-level recognition that it does not deserve. In fact, it should not even be there in the first place thanks to its utterly disappointing script.

I am convinced that this film was successful in several things: its racist mockery; it somehow offended same-sex families, even more so considering the director is herself a married lesbian with kids from a sperm donor; wrongly utilized comical mood e.g. the facial features of the main actresses (Are they clowns? Perhaps trying to amuse the general audience?); horribly clichéd Hollywood story (external sexual influence can easily turn a lesbian into a straight? and how easily the kids dump their best pal etc..) The rating are for the actors who paid a lot of effort to make this movie watchable. But the only way to make this movie justified for the concept and issues it is based on, is to remake the whole script from different point of views. Because what I saw in this film isn't about same-sex families with children or whatever, but it is a completely uncommon, dysfunctional family with decision-making skills governed by Hollywood-style expectations.
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seaview125 February 2011
The nuclear family takes on a different spin when both parents are same sex and the kids are the product of a male sperm donor in The Kids Are All Right. When traumatic upheaval and revelations strike such a family, the results can be amusing and also tragic. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore highlight an insightful script about domesticity turned on its head.

Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore) are lesbian parents of two teens, Joni and Laser. One day the children research and contact their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who agrees to meet his progeny. After an awkward first meeting, things actually go well as the new family connections are explored by the kids and their newly found father. The couple of Nic and Jules are a contrast; Nic is the physician who is totally controlling while Jules is still trying to find herself with a new business of landscaping. Laser hangs with the wrong crowd and begins to realize that he deserves better through his bond with Paul. Joni is trying to assert herself as an adult and prepares to go to college. The moms show a parental responsibility to watch over their children and want to meet the dad. When Paul hires Jules to do work on his restaurant landscape, the two connect. As Paul's influence begins to overcome the family, Nic feels left out. But there is an attraction between Jules and Paul that leads to a torrid affair, and when Nic discovers the truth, the family is torn apart. Into this mix are two maturing children whose emotions will be tested throughout.

The roles are well acted especially by Benning as a betrayed spouse, and in particular, her scene of revelation about Jules is a marvel of expressiveness and devastating heartbreak. This culminates in a powerful moment with all the principals present at Paul's dinner table. Moore gives solid support and shines in her heartfelt plea to her family near the end. The ensemble is well cast particularly Ruffalo whose almost bystander role is suddenly elevated to catalyst and disruptor of the family's dynamic.

The story has a nice balance of serious tones and comedic elements born out of the situations. The themes work on several levels like ingredients of a zesty recipe: the family chemistry, the couple of Nic and Jules, the kids' developing bond with Paul, Paul and Jules, and shake and mix well. Everyone has needs and wants, and the strongest is a need to belong to a family and the need to connect with another human being whether it be Laser and his friends, Paul and Jules, Paul and his children, and Nic and Jules. Amid the conflicts, no one escapes unscathed. There are no real heroes or villains here, only hard truths about life and relationships.

The fact that two lesbians are having the conflict over infidelity may seem novel on the surface, but it could easily have been a heterosexual couple. In fact the notion of two lesbians virtually disappears as we witness and understand this family unit with its warts and all. It could be any family when you think about it. The fact that both Benning and Moore play their respective spousal roles so convincingly is a testament to their acting skills playing off an excellent script by Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko, who also directs. The ending rings true and shows not only how far the relationships have come, but how that foundation, despite some serious challenges, is strong enough to survive. Life moves on, and there is hope for the future.

There are not a lot of loose ends in this story although, toward the end, it would be nice to get a bit more resolution to Ruffalo's character. The film does contains a couple of brief explicit sex scenes without which this would essentially be a PG rated film. There is little to quibble about, and the viewer gets to experience one of the more insightful domestic dramas in recent years.
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teenage kids discover lesbian mom's sperm donor
hayley9617 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This film advertises itself as dramady. Likable lesbian parents with traditional marriage issues of power and declining passion have two teen-age kids. The teens - age 15 and 18 discover a file with their birth mother's sperm donor information. For the next hour we get nice acting - 60's style guy (Paul) discovers he's a dad, he awkwardly bonds with the kids and tussles with the moms over his intrusion into their lives. It's cute and funny and the audience is waiting for the other shoe to drop. What the writer and director do next is unforgivable. The subservient mom - Jules, played by Julianne Moore - starts having sex with Paul while she supposedly landscapes his restaurant. This comes out of nowhere. Off course, dominate mom (Nick played by Annette Benning) discerns the betrayal and the kids find out. Jules is relegated to the couch at home for a couple of days. But, Paul gets the worst of it. The film ends with him ostracized by the kids while Jules is clearly forgiven - as if she was some bi-curious teenager who had a mistaken fling. We see scenes of Paul seriously contemplating changing his life as a result of his contact with his kids. No follow-up. Paul gets dissed when he shows up at the house before the teenage daughter goes to college. We don't see him again. Meanwhile Jules and Nick kiss and make-up. The kids are the victim of Paul's misdeeds with Jules but Jules is forgiven and Paul is abandoned. This is a well acted movie of the week with a mean spirited finish. I had hope that it would turn out better.
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Better than all right
Dan Franzen (dfranzen70)28 January 2011
The Kids Are All Right is one of those sweetly sentimental comedies that manages to be funny as well. It's about a decidedly unorthodox family that's far from perfect – and what happens when a so-called interloper arrives on the scene. It's wonderfully acted, with affecting performances by Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore, and it's engaging entertainment, no small feat when the subject of touching charm arises.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Moore) are a married lesbian couple in California with two kids, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and Joni (Mia Washikowska). Two two kids – one for each mom – are the result of a sperm donor, and when Joni turns 18 she places a call to the sperm bank at her brother's behest. The two wind up meeting Paul (Ruffalo) and hit it off, but when the two moms meet him, they have strikingly different reactions to his arrival.

There's excellent conflict afoot here. The kids resent their moms for being so defensive about their wanting to know about their own biological father; the moms resent the kids for looking into the matter themselves. X is the calm, mediating type; she's outwardly caring and splits her time between raising the two kids and starting new (doomed) businesses. By contrast, Nic is more inwardly insecure, and she compensates by controlling as much as possible of the lives of the other three. No wonder Paul's appearance causes Nic to get her back up.

The movie isn't one of those where increasingly wacky situations occur. It's not a slammed-door comedy. People behave as if you'd expect them to behave, which is nice thing to see in a comedy (rather than exaggeration of gestures and speech, for example). Eventually, it isn't enough that Paul shows up in everyone's lives, disrupting what little harmony they have; something else happens as a result of his appearance that really behaves as the key conflict. And for once, when the culprits are confronted, there is no neatly tied response given by the rest of the family.

Another pleasant aspect of the movie is that it never treats the relationship between Bening and Moore as if it were anything but the most commonplace thing on earth. It's not just that these two woman are married and in love, it's that they're also utterly human – they fight each other convincingly, they get their feelings hurt, and they reconcile with the kind of subtlety you rarely really see in movies these days. Each character, rather than being simply caricatures of what a straight person would assume a gay married couple would look like, has her own striking personality, and the two actresses perform quite well. I think Moore comes off a little better and that Bening's character sometimes seemed a little one dimensional – but this is more likely an oversight on the part of the writer, not the actress. Ironically, it was Bening who received an Oscar nomination for this movie, but I think Moore's work was superior here.

Overall, the script neither flashy nor contrived; situations don't crop up just so we can have a laugh at someone's expense. Well done.

The Kids Are All Right is a genuinely funny movie. It's not a gagfest, and it wasn't meant to be one. The characters are sincere but not always forthright; they all seem to make a bad decision or two in the movie. The cast was well selected (lest I forget, Ruffalo is aces as a laid-back buttinsky, if such a thing can exist), and it's a movie worth seeing.
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Good acting can't overcome ridiculous plot line
marlon_jackson24 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I think all the actors did a decent job in this movie. I especially liked Mia Wasikowska as Joni. And Mark Ruffalo seemed very natural as the neo-hippy veggie restaurant dude.

But holy cow! Maybe if would have known this was an attempt at a sex farce, I wouldn't have had such high hopes for the movie. There is no pretense of realism at all. Lesbians that watch gay male porn in order to get in the mood? A long-married lesbian that at the drop of a hat will quickly jump on the nearest penis? The sex scenes are only slightly more realistic than those in Zoolander.

But this movie even fails as a sex farce. It also tries to be a slice of life of a modern family, but the pitiful attempts at humor get in the way. Even big life lesson questions are dealt with in an dismissive fashion.

"Now that you're 18, why don't you call our bio-dad?". "No! You call when you're 18!". "Please!" "OK", and hilarity ensues. Ridiculous.

The sad thing is, given a reasonably realistic screenplay, this concept had potential.
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A slap in the face
beaver cleaver16 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This film is the most offensive thing I have ever seen. As someone else said, the tone is "aggressive." The writing feels very hostile and hateful or like someone's diluted sexual fantasy barely strung together scene after scene after scene...

Why was the sperm donor all of a sudden just so willing meet someone else's children? Why did the sperm bank call him to tell him they have a privacy policy, but we were just wanting to know if you'd be interested in meeting somebody? Uh, isn't that the first thing you expect when you jerk it in a cup? That your semen won't be looking you up 15 years down the road? Horrible plot. No lessons learned.

I give it a 1/10 just to bring the score down.

This film is incredibly overrated.
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The Grown-Ups Aren't
jax71316 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A boring movie and, like Laurel Canyon, another Cholodenko attempt to make serious dysfunction seem normal. Making "the kids" supremely well-adjusted is a transparent piece of propaganda to advance this premise and it's difficult to imagine that they are really all right in view of the film's events.

Though the actors try mightily to bring realism to their roles, the script is weak and the characters are one-dimensional. Bening as Nic is supposedly the smart half of the lesbian couple, a physician who appears confident and rational but who too easily loses these traits when the kids want to meet their biological father. As an educated doctor, you would assume she figured this day would come, but we have to watch her being bent out of shape over it for the entire movie, finally erupting into a vicious rant against the man who gave her the gift of children. We are supposed to see her as a lion protecting her cubs but it looks like artificial role playing. Then we have Jules (Moore), the mixed-up and not too bright other half of this duo who, glaringly, has no idea what she wants to do with her life except to recite mommy-type dialog when needed and have sex with whomever. The cliché here is that Jules is starved for attention but does nothing to deserve it. This character is too superficial for us to care. Enter Paul (Ruffalo), the biological dad who becomes a bystander-victim in the scenario and a symbol of Cholodenko's man hating pen. He's introduced as a nice, regular guy who is surprised at the warm feelings stirred up when the kids contact him. But we soon see that, though he's reasonably intelligent and has good intentions toward the kids, he lapses into a thoughtless bloke who stupidly falls into a casual affair with the nutty Jules. The script, without any regard for "The Kids," throws him under the bus as a villain and tries hard to make us believe Nic and Jules are blameless. Puh-leez.

In the meantime, with all the illusions of white picket fence normalcy disintegrating into textbook psychology chapters, how can we ever believe the kids are all right? The story contradicts the title by making us watch the grown-ups make all the wrong choices.
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Great Actors/Actresses Spread Thin With Weak Plot
windnature9 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This film could have been great if it was two or three different films. As it stands, though, "The Kids are All Right" is populated with actors and actresses that are clearly giving their all, but can't move beyond a script that unfortunately doesn't know where it's going.

Right from the beginning, the film has no direction at all. Is this a movie about the struggles everyone faces in long-term relationships, lesbian, gay, or straight? Is it about the consequences of sperm donation on the children it creates? Is it about children growing up and realizing the issues that come along with this? It seems to change every 15 minutes, abandoning characters along the way and bringing them back at awkward moments.

From the time that Joni and Laser (yes, seriously) meet up with their sperm donor "father" Paul, the whole movie falls apart. Sadly, this happens within the first 20 minutes. At first it seems like the film will be going for a sort of family reunion-type plot, but then, all of a sudden, it throws in a whole new plot point, the growing boredom that the mothers, Nic and Jules, have with each other. Alright, I can see how that is related. But then it just throws in even more to the mix. Now we have Jules being unfaithful with the new guy, played for what is essentially cheap jokes. Finally, in the last 15 minutes, it's about moving from home to college. Characters come and go in each of these subplots depending on who needs to show up. Laser only shows up briefly, essentially to brood over his displeasure with Paul and, for some reason, in order to yell at his friend for trying to urinate on a scruffy street dog (?).

A number of the scenes got laughs from the audience, but I was quite frankly unamused by any of them. Three seconds of disjointed sex scenes get mashed together, and somehow that's meant to be funny. Not only that, but the scene happens twice, with two different people, exactly the same way. These scenes could have been taken out completely and the film would've been no different, but they need to be there for the cheap laughs I suppose.

By the end of the movie, I could have cared less about any of the people, plots were left half-finished so that the next sub-plot could be filmed, and I learned and felt nothing. The premise of the film seemed so promising at first, but a disjointed script totally ruins any of the emotion.
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Entertaining story, even when not "in" for a feel-good comedy. Moving from time to time
JvH4828 December 2010
The theater announced this movie as a feel-good comedy, which did me hesitate a bit before buying tickets. When before the TV at home, such comedies make me cringe mostly, due to over-acted family ties and an emphasis on life events that should bind people together (but not always do). However, the synopsis of this film sounded intriguing. Also, the reviews on IMDb contradicted each other heavily. The latter decided for me.

Neither the family situation nor the line of events will match everyday's and everyone's family life. But the deviation from a standard family carries the story throughout the movie, and makes up the basic ingredients for the dramatic part. I disagree with many reviewers, who have serious problems with the logic in the story. They seem to think that there is only black and white in sexual preferences, and no gray areas in between that one could try for a shorter or longer period.

The casting is convincing, and the actors are performing very well. The composition of the story is such that there is never a dull moment, and there is always some unexpected event around the corner for our entertainment.

Three sex scenes are included in the film, and one could argue that these could have been more implicit, to make it suitable for family viewing and still drive the message home what happened and what it entails for the story. On the other hand, what is actually shown on the screen is not worse than what one can stumble upon during Internet browsing or home watching TV.

The only problem I had with the story that it has a happy ending for most of the main characters, but not all. I have pity with the ones who were left more or less empty handed. They would have deserved it if they had behaved badly in some sense, but they certainly were not.

I saw this film as part of the "Deventer humor festival 2010" (Deventer is a medium sized village in The Netherlands). I don't think it had its place there, as the movie is much more dramatic than it is hilarious. I can only assume that the festival programmer had other reasons to make it part of this event. Nevertheless I have no complaints about having seen this movie, all things considered.
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oddity9430 May 2010
The movie follows a Nic and Jules, a middle-aged couple raising their two teenage children, Joni and Laser in suburban L.A. And everything seems to be going just fine until the moment Joni turns 18 and is convinced by her brother to reach out to their biological father. Hesitating at first, Joni eventually puts in a call to the sperm bank, who puts her in touch with Paul, a restaurant owner and all around "cool dude" who seems willing to meet the kids he never knew he had. As Paul arrives in their lives the family is thrown into disarray and sticky situations that threatens the stability of this already unusual family.

The Good: The acting is great with good chemistry between Nic and Jules. Well what else would you expect of Annette Benning and Julianne Moore and not to forget, Mark Ruffalo. And the younger actors (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) give believable and very good performances.

Also the films is very energetic and never really looses your attention.

The Bad: The Films stumbles around a bit not really knowing if it's a romantic comedy or a a family drama specially at the end but fortunately stays true to its core.
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