Amidst the many blockbusters that capture the most significant amount of press, a generous amount of smaller movies are wowing critics and audiences alike this summer, at least those who take the time to seek them out. One such film is The Kids Are All Right, a drama-comedy about a lesbian couple whose teenage children decide to seek out their "surrogate" father, which subsequently throws their family into chaos.
The Kids Are All Right stars Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as Jules and Nic, a loving, married couple who have a 15-year old son named Laser (Josh Hutcherson, Cirque de Freak) and an 18-year old daughter, Joni (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland). The kids meet up with the man who donated his sperm to their moms, Paul, played by Mark Ruffalo. What starts as an innocent encounter turns into much more, as Nic finds her perfect life threatened, the kids realize it's nice to have a father-like presence and Jules discovers that she has a lot of pent-up emotion. The family suddenly begins to crumble.
Directed and co-written by Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon), the movie is a complex, funny and moving story that avoids melodrama and stereotypes altogether and instead presents a very functional, almost-normal family that has to deal with realistic problems. Superbly written, The Kids Are All Right is entertaining from start to finish and is one of the most enjoyable movies of the year.
The film is packed with laugh-out-loud moments. The script has a lot to do with this, but the actors completely embrace the story and elevate the material even further. Cholodenko's unusually tight direction also helps with the comedic timing, the result an immensely satisfying experience.
Moore and Bening have great chemistry together, though Ruffalo by far and away delivers the best performance. You can never tell if he's smart or aloof, his stare always just a little vacant but due to deep thought or vapidity it isn't clear. The fact that his character can't be pinned to a single archetype helps make him so interesting. The younger actors also deliver fine performances; both improve mightily upon previous efforts they've done.
The Kids Are All Right does become more serious in the third act, but even then it remains grounded in reality. Cholodenko and co-write Stuart Blumberg could have gone many directions, but they chose the simplest, most realistic path they could conceive. The movie never becomes heavy handed nor melodramatic, and still sprinkles in humor where appropriate. The movie quickly hooks you and draws you into the family and doesn't let go until the closing credits.
The Kids Are All Right is one of the best movies of 2010, a wonderfully acted and authentically funny drama-comedy.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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