Review: The Kids Are All Right (2010)

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko | 104 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, Yava DaCosta, Kunal Sharma, Eddie Hassell, Zosia Mamet, Joaquín Garrido, Rebecca Lawrence, Lisa Eisner, Eric Eisner, Sasha Spielberg, James MacDonald, Margo Victor, Amy Grabow, Stuart Blumberg

A tried and true recipe: put an outsider in a family that appears to be functioning well, and in no time the family machinery will start to falter. We saw it in “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” we saw it in “Little Miss Sunshine,” and we see it again in “The Kids Are All Right.” In a family of two lesbian mothers and two sperm donor kids, one day the causative agent shows up. The kids are fine with it, they are all right after all, but the mothers get completely upset.

This nice premise delivers a comedy that will have you smiling for an hour and a half. The humor and tone are of the subdued kind, akin to ‘Juno’ or ‘The Station Agent’, with no real thigh chatter but with a few hilarious scenes. One mother gives away a memorable Joni Mitchell imitation, the other mother has a few awkward chats with a gardener who may or may not be addicted. And then there’s the sperm donor—$60 for a handful—who, uninhibited and in good spirits, drives an entire family to despair.

In addition to the humor, there is excellent acting in ‘The Kids Are All Right’. Julianne Moore can indulge herself in the role of chaotic Jules, the mother who is a companion for her kids and who, after 12 crafts, is on her way to a 13th accident. Mark Ruffalo plays the cheerful donor Paul with the right combination of charm and awkwardness. Best acting performance goes to Mia Wasikowska in the role of daughter Joni. Pay special attention to that subtle change of mind during the last car ride, where sadness about the goodbye gives way to curiosity about life on campus.

Besides the humor and the good acting, this feel-good also carries a message: it doesn’t matter whether children are raised by heterosexuals or gays, sooner or later both will make a mess of it. That such an emancipatory message is propagated in this way says a lot about director Cholodenko’s self-confidence. A self-confidence that she fully lives up to with ‘The Kids Are All Right’.

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