The Kids Are All Right – Family ties get a new twist in a comedy for today

The Kids Are All Right

A happily married couple’s relationship comes under threat from a sexy interloper. You’ve seen this film before, haven’t you? The set-up has been a mainstay of the erotic thriller genre from Fatal Attraction to last year’s Obsessed. Refreshingly, the thought-provoking comedy The Kids Are All Right turns this hackneyed movie triangle on its axis.

For a start, the married couple are two women – Annette Bening’s Nic and Julianne Moore’s Jules – and the interloper is the anonymous sperm donor, played by Mark Ruffalo, who fathered the pair’s teenage children two decades earlier.

Ruffalo’s Paul comes on the scene after Nic and Jules’ daughter, Joni, turns 18, the age at which she is legally entitled to contact her biological father. College-bound Joni (named after Joni Mitchell and played by Alice in Wonderland star Mia Wasikowska) is in no rush to find out his identity, but her 15-year-old brother, Laser (Josh Hutcherson), pesters her to track him down through the artificial insemination clinic their moms used.

The Kids Are All Right

Dad turns out to be a laidback, motorbike-riding organic gardener and restaurateur and he quickly bonds with the teenagers. When Nic and Jules get to meet him, however, his presence proves disruptive and begins to expose some of the pasted-over cracks in the couple’s relationship…

Very loosely inspired by co-writer and director Lisa Cholodenko’s experience of sperm donation with her partner Wendy Melvoin (ex-member of Prince’s band The Revolution and part of music duo Wendy & Lisa), The Kids Are All Right is witty, touching and humane – and decidedly up to the minute.

Gay and lesbian parenting is a hot-button subject in the US today, but Cholodenko doesn’t make it an issue. The fact that Joni and Laser have two moms isn’t a big deal in the film, which is far more interested in a subject with universal relevance – the difficulty of sustaining a long-term relationship through the stresses and strains of modern life.

The Kids Are All Right

Cholodenko (maker of High Art and Laurel Canyon) resists the temptation to turn Nic and Jules into role-model paragons – their flaws are all too real. Nic, a doctor, drinks too much and is a bit too controlling; Jules, a would-be landscape gardener, is restless and unfulfilled.

Moore and Bening, both superb, give Nic and Jules’s relationship a truly lived-in feel. And it’s the very ordinariness of this relationship that is the film’s boldest stroke. In the context of present-day America, it’s quietly radical to show a same-sex couple that anyone can relate to and applaud.

It might be hard for the religious right to swallow, but Nic and Jules have done an excellent job of raising their children – Mom and Mom may be a little screwed-up, but their kids really are all right.

On general release from 29th October.

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One Response to The Kids Are All Right – Family ties get a new twist in a comedy for today

  1. henderson says:

    This boring, confused film has gotten the accolades that it has because it seeks to be perfectly cool with gay marriage and families, but it can’t help but end up being self-conscioiusly ueber-progressive–and stupidly sentimental. Yes, there is wit–some. And intelligence–some. But it all falls flat when the moral replaces the movie in the director’s imagination. Paul, who is tentatively treated like a real character, is summarily discarded so the narrative can find its sickly sweet Hollywood ending–as artificial as cotton candy–leaving at least this viewer simply angry. Sure, no one can walk away without having gotten the message: gay marriages are just like any other marriages (for the most part, a “marathon” and “long slog that seems to leave the participants psychically depleted but still horny and in need of some life, for God’s sake), and in your heart you know it has to be sadly true, but this film will have done nothing to convince you of it. Spend your money somewhere else.

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