FILM RATING: 4.5 stars
(Upgraded from 3.5 to 4.5 stars on September 29, 2011)
It’s rare that I find a movie with a good adult laugh. My sense of humor is pretty dry, and most comedies nowadays seem to go more for toilet room and slapstick humor. But I was very pleasantly surprised by the intelligent, subtle, witty humor in The Kids Are All Right (2010). The film also has a good dose of drama, so it’s really a dramedy that follows in the footsteps of the great television series M*A*S*H, combining laughs and tears with great effect for both. I’m shocked that I like The Kids Are All Right as much as I do! I was expecting it to be light and fluffy. And at times it is, but it also has great dramatic depth. It’s one of the best and freshest films of 2010, as so many critics are pointing out.
Director Lisa Cholodenko crafted this marvelous story about a modern family with two kids and two mothers from her own life experience, as is clearly obvious in the phenomenal writing and dialogue. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are absolutely perfect and believable as a Lesbian couple who both get pregnant using the same sperm donor, and create their family of four. Mark Ruffalo plays the sperm donor and hopeful-father-to-be for Laser and Joni, played brilliantly by Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska. All five of these actors that make up this ensemble cast are at the top of their acting games. Bening and Moore both deserve Oscar nominations for their work here. Other than in American Beauty (1999), I’ve never seen Bening better. And I predict she finally wins her much deserved Oscar for her role as Nic in this film. The production design and cinematography are both excellent, showing how much can be done on what I’m sure was a tight budget. The sets and locations all work well in telling the story of the lives of these characters.
What really got me in The Kids Are All Right, is how much I could see myself and my own life’s journey in each and every one of these five characters. Regardless of their gender, age, or sexual orientation, each character has a piece of life to share with us and make us think and feel about. This is very much a family film, but without a pretentious agenda (I would argue) to promote or prove that gay and lesbian couples can have a marriage and a family just like straight couples. And yet it does prove that premise…at least to me. The love, structure, struggles, and all the other things that any family or marriage has, are all present in this family. The two major scenes where these five family members gather around the dinner table and have a “family” meal together are the absolute best parts of this movie. Each time, I felt fond memories of my own family’s meals and the dynamics involved in the conversations between the people present. It’s good stuff!! It’s hard for me to share what got me about this film, other than all the little details and minutia of everyday life that come through in the characters and the story. They all add up so that by the end, you’ve gone on this journey of discovery about this family and the lives that make it up. As well as relived your own story. I remembered my own past experiences with growing up as a teenager, going off to college, learning about life, and maturing into an adult as I watched this film. I laughed at some of the obscure, ordinary, but funny moments that this film lives in. It’s simply a great slice of modern American life…and yet it feels timeless because so much of life and family really never changes.
I’ve always loved the design of this motion graphic for Focus Features. The play with things being in- and out-of-focus is great!