"The Kids" are remarkable

July 21, 2010, 12:05 a.m. | By Marjorie Fuchs | 11 years, 3 months ago

Alternative family gives insight into all relationships

"The Kids Are All Right,” from director Lisa Cholodenko, comes into theaters as a fresh portrait of family, marriage and all related struggles. "The Kids” is an exceptional work that succeeds on many levels: It has a story destined to touch audiences, top acting performances from all involved and an authenticity that is lacking from many of today's films.

The movie follows Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), a married lesbian couple, as they raise their children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). This alternative family unit is interrupted, however, when Joni contacts her and her brother's sperm donor father, laid-back restaurateur Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Paul is invited over for dinner, and soon becomes a celebratory and reoccurring figure in the kids' lives. Nic, however, is not as thrilled by Paul and struggles with the fact that her long-followed family rules are falling by the wayside. Paul becomes the first customer for Jules' newly founded landscaping business, and the two connect not only through their biological kids, but also with each other. After the family's 18 years as a close-knit unit, the appearance of Paul marks a new path that forces the four to reconnect on the meaning of family.

The chemistry within the movie - between Nic and Jules, Paul and the kids, even between Paul and the moms - makes the film all the more real; viewers will recognize their own family dynamics. Bening and Moore's couple is true as their characters are comfortable with each other and are a team both when parenting and working together. Their marital relationship is sincere; the audience sees Bening and Moore as Nic and Jules, not actresses attempting to play married lesbians.

Ruffalo's subtle mannerisms and surfer vocabulary also bring that extra bit of life into his character. For their first complete family dinner, Ruffalo, Bening and Moore create a slight, awkward vibe, not overdone to the point of unbelievability, but just enough as to have the audience feel as though they are sitting at the table meeting their children's biological father as well.

"The Kids Are All Right” is a movie about real people, flaws and all. Nic and Jules' relationship is not perfect, and as Jules says, "Marriage is hard. Two people, year after year.” It's each character's faults and failures that makes them even more relatable; Bening's Nic is tightly-wound, which is realistic when she's in mom mode, but other times is a bit extreme.

In the film the kids are actually doing great, but the viewer doesn't see nearly enough of them. Both Wasikowska's and Hutcherson's characters adjust to having Paul in their lives while dealing with growing up. Joni is preparing for college and Laser is dealing with a bad-influence friend, and both of these side plots are as intriguing as the main story, but the movie doesn't focus on the kids enough, particularly Laser. At the end, the viewer is left wondering what will become of them and their relationship with Paul.

However whip-smart dialogue and steady pace greatly make up for whatever is lacking in the plot. Sharp lines from nearly every character not only are colored with humor but also hold a striking relevance to their situation. Cholodenko gives feeling and emotion to the script, which is then brought to life by impeccable acting.

The movie's soundtrack is an eclectic mix of new indie rock and old classics. Indie artists such as MGMT and Deefhoof as well as older standbys, including Joni Mitchell and David Bowie, fuse together to create a soundtrack as unique as the movie itself.

"The Kids Are All Right” stands out in the midst of the action, rom-com summer movie parade as a bold, truthful movie on the heart and complexity of family. Although the movie ends without resolving some side plots, "The Kids Are All Right” triumphs in bringing authentic emotions to the screen.

Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some teen drug and alcohol use. The film runs 104 minutes and is now playing in select area theaters.

Marjorie Fuchs. Marjorie gets her name from a variety of sources- "Marjorie” being her Great-Grandmother's name and "Fuchs” meaning fox in German. She tends to go by Margie. Margie is keen on traveling, especially to new places, adores Europe and the American Southwest. She loves creativity, eclectic … More »

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