Published Jul 08, 2010While notable for its topical political presence (advocating same-sex marriage), writer/director Lisa Cholodenko's latest character-based, ideological satire set in Southern California displays a mastery of self-righteous urban bohemian dialogue, much like her previous works, Laurel Canyon and High Art. She has a knack for presenting alternative lifestyles with a complexity beyond one-note platitudes, juxtaposing intolerant conservatives with ironic hipsters without patronizing either, revelling in equal parts hypocrisy and acute observations.
The Kids are All Right is no exception, as, ostensibly, the main character triangle of lesbian couple Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) and sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo) are essentially the same character types as those in Laurel Canyon, only in different circumstances, creating a similar power dynamic and organic comic interface. Of course, here the central question is whether a male role model and traditional family is necessary for the healthy development of children, as explored when Joni (Mia Wasikowska) reaches out to her mothers' sperm donor following her 18th birthday.
Undoubtedly, this sort of premise could easily devolve into a bout of preaching and overt pedagogical posturing, but Cholodenko is far more concerned with examining relationship dynamics and well-intentioned people that make mistakes than she is in pointing fingers. Jules' eventual acquiescence to Paul's flirtation isn't presented with bias or villainy, coming off more as a mutual curiosity and middle-aged questioning of life choices.
What's more, as these characters interact, keeping secrets from each other and evolving together, their differences and very candid reactions frequently prove hilarious. For example, when Laser (Josh Hutcherson) asks his mothers why two lesbians would watch gay male porn during sex, the facial responses and natural chemistry between Bening and Moore make it impossible not to literally laugh aloud. In fact, body language and throwaway facial reactions add quite a bit to an already intelligent and exceptionally detailed script.
Most importantly, as the film progresses and the title becomes increasingly apt, the only annoyance is the realization that it will eventually end. While not exceptional or life changing, this tale of familial hiccups and growing pains proves deeply satisfying and thoroughly engrossing, regardless of orientation, preference or bias. (Alliance)