The Kids Are All Right Review
Joni (Mia Wasikowska) has just turned eighteen and is about to leave for College. Raised by two mothers, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), Joni is persuaded by her younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) to find out who their sperm-donor father really was. This turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo), and is not what Joni and Laser expect when they secretly meet him...
Made for a very small budget ($4 million), The Kids Are All Right is a very smart comedy. As ever, at the heart of it is a fine script, by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg. If you didn't know that both had personal experience of the film's subject matter – Cholodenko and her partner (Wendy Melvoin, one half of Wendy and Lisa) have a child conceived by artificial insemination, and Blumberg has been a sperm donor himself – you could guess it. The film is full of little details and nuance that speak of first-hand knowledge, or at least very good research. Nic and Jules are very convincing as a longterm couple whose relationship is showing a few cracks: Nic, a successful doctor, is a little too fond of her red wine, while Jules, a landscape gardener, is full of half-realised plans and ambitions and beginning to face the fact that she is falling short of her dreams. Bring Paul into the equation, and Jules finds herself drawn to his easy-going lifestyle, bringing herself into conflict with Nic.
It's heartening that a film like this can be as successful as it has been, as it deals in an adult, unembarrassed but unsensational way with subject matter that mainstream Hollywood might well have found too inflammatory to even consider. You certainly don't see many films where a lesbian couple use gay male pornography in bed...with inevitable complications when Laser finds it. Cholodenko has a shooting style that favours the actors and their characters: a times scenes appear to run on a little overlong, but there's always a reason for it, usually to catch some nuance of expression on a character's face or body language. The title may evoke The Who, but the music that plays the biggest part in this film is that of Joni Mitchell. Joni is named after her, and there's a memorable scene when the family have Paul round for dinner and he and Nic swap lyrics from the Mitchell song “All I Want”. The Kids Are All Right is very well acted, as you would expect, and generous to most of its characters – though you may find the ending harder on Paul than it is on others. It's a warm, witty film, made by and for adults.