The Kids Are All Right

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Lisa Cholodenko

Starring

Annette Bening Julianne Moore Mia Wasikowska

Anticipation.

Cracking cast and healthy buzz from Sundance.

Enjoyment.

Intelligent, sharp and extremely funny.

In Retrospect.

Family-centric comedy has never felt so fresh.

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore shine in this searingly funny tale of middle-age anxiety.

With The Kids Are All Right, writer/directer Lisa Cholodenko announces herself as an assured filmmaker with a keen eye for cultural observation and characterisation.

Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) are a hardworking couple who prize freethinking family values. Like all devoted parents, their primary concern is what’s best for their children Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), and as a result their relationship has begun to show signs of wear. Crisis is compounded when Joni turns 18 and younger brother Laser convinces her to track down their previously anonymous sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a commitmentphobe whose paternal instincts extend about as far as his organic veg patch.

Despite initial reservations, Paul is welcomed into the family home and afforded space to bond with his estranged offspring. But while Nic maintains her wariness of Paul’s apparent flakiness and breezy machismo, Jules proves to be slightly more open to his charms. The kids might be all right, but true to life it’s the adults you have to worry about.

Tackling the endless complexities of marriage, parenthood, growing up and getting old head on, Cholodenko has hand-crafted a sincere portrait of domestic life that is compassionate, well observed and never condescending. The film’s most significant triumph, however, is that while universal in its scope it is intimate in its focus: note perfect performances all round allow Cholodenko to give each character’s private concerns their own space and merit.

This is real life, authentic and uncompromised. Fits of spiky humour are delicately balanced with moments of betrayal and repentance, while the central lesbian subtext is neither obscured nor exploited to some socially pragmatic end. Indeed, the emphasis is very much on the collective strength of this particular unit, as opposed to individual insecurities or weaknesses.

Going against the grain of formulaic Hollywood conveyor-belt rom-coms, The Kids Are All Right is a refreshingly adult twist on the day-to-day dysfunctions of the modern family.

Published 29 Oct 2010

Tags: Annette Bening Julianne Moore Queer Cinema

Anticipation.

Cracking cast and healthy buzz from Sundance.

Enjoyment.

Intelligent, sharp and extremely funny.

In Retrospect.

Family-centric comedy has never felt so fresh.

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