The Kids Are All Right


Action / Comedy / Drama / Romance

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 93%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 73%
IMDb Rating 7.1 10 115953


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by doctorsmoothlove 1 / 10

The Adults are not

I hated The Kids are all Right. I haven't had such a difficult time not walking out of a theater since I began writing reviews. Shame on me for not having the courage to do it. The movie unknowingly teases its subject matter while simultaneously making a redundant argument (that any reasonable person already understands) for it. The film has aggressive tone, which makes sitting through its pretentious offenses all the more unbearable.

Director Lisa Cholodenko, who is openly lesbian, has created a story that supposedly espouses the abilities of gay families to survive external (heterosexual) threats. This plot is a reaction to early 2000's conservative propaganda about the looming "gay" presence that would breakup families. As we have learned in less than a decade, gay people haven't destroyed straight families. The anti-gay movement also failed because straight people realized this. The sharp sexual identity barrier in The Kids are all Right is entirely outdated. As a member of the gay community, Cholodenko should have reworked the story. There are more contemporary issues to discuss.

What unfolds is a series of events culturally-aware citizens should find unnecessary. Nic and Jules are a middle aged lesbian couple with two children from the same sperm donor. They have been married for a long time, and have settled into traditional family roles. Nic is a physician and Jules is a stay-at-home mom. They have two children nearing college age. Joni, the older one, has turned 18 and inquires about her biological father on behalf of her half-brother Laser. They meet Paul, a handsome restaurant owner, who becomes a regular around the house. He of course begins having an affair with Jules who is estranged from her wife over the children's discovery. The threat is eliminated when the affair is discovered and Nic forgives the family for her rude behavior. Jules apologizes too. The family comes back together.

The film's greatest offense is in its treatment of Jules. For what purpose does her affair have to be with a man? Why are all the sex scenes so purposefully stylized? Why do we not see her being intimate with her wife, if we even needed to see sex? The movie falls right into the chauvinistic idea that women's homosexual tendencies are really just suppressions of heterosexual feelings.

As a story that features a gay couple, which is only a small percentage of all couples, it doesn't cater to its premise. This could be a standard family values story if it involved a straight couple, or if Jules had an affair with a woman. It could make a similar statement if it was about a likely situation a gay family with children would face. Humor is instead inserted at random intervals to atone for the lack of something else to say. Tension is turned on and off, which is the movie's admission that it has no idea of the subculture it depicts or it doesn't care about it.

There is a real lack of meaningful gay films within a family setting. Filmmakers need to very much consider and investigate the day-to-day lives of gay single or two-parent households and present a situation that straight people would not understand. This will educate people about the hardships these types of families endure. What we don't need is this untailored piece of trash that finds humor in its own insensitivity.

Reviewed by jrcham94 2 / 10

Barely Mediocre

Director Lisa Cholodenko, who gave us the marvelous "Laurel Canyon", assembles a killer cast (including national treasures Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, along with Mark Ruffalo and terrific young actor Mia Wasikowska) and addresses a promising premise (kids of lesbian moms meet their sperm donor dad). What could possibly go wrong? Shockingly, in this case, just about everything.

This is not the fault of the actors. Moore and Bening are clearly committed to creating complex, sympathetic portraits of the kids' parents, Jules and Nic. Ruffalo attempts to breathe life into his role as the hapless sperm donor. Wasikowsa tries to convey the maturation of a young person about to strike out on her own.

The problem - and it is a serious one - is that the script gives the actors nothing to work with. Cholodenko, who co-wrote the screenplay, can't make up her mind whether she's directing a slice-of-life family drama, a satiric portrait of stereotypical characters, or a sex farce. She succeeds only in creating a confusing mess that works as none of the above.

Things go badly early, when Jules and Nic have a cringe-inducing sex scene featuring (male) gay porn. From there, the two constantly "process" their feelings. But it's unclear whether Cholodenko intends for this to be satiric or realistic; I don't think the actors have a clue. Things get worse when Jules, for petty reasons, humiliates and then fires a Latino gardener. If the purpose were to showcase some inner complexity of her character, that would be one thing. But, incredibly, the scene is played for laughs, as if the audience should find Jules' cruel behavior funny.

Since Cholodenko seems to have nothing to say about her characters, the plot is propelled by absurd turns of events that make no internal sense to the film. Absurdity piles upon absurdity, leaving the viewer more aghast than drawn in.

For her part, Bening attempts to make sense of the shrill, control-freak character she plays. But, in doing so, she seems to be at cross-purposes with her director. The problem is that in making Nic as real as she can, Bening creates someone utterly unsympathetic. But Cholodenko seems to want the viewer to like and identify with this character. The result is that you just don't care.

The film never really goes anywhere. The thin plot has a tacked-on ending that comes out of nowhere. I was just glad that it was over.

I can't overstate how disappointed I was by this film's waste of talent. And by its waste of a topical premise that had the potential to give movie-goers a meaningful alternative to what passes for film entertainment in Hollywood today. Sadly, unless you want to see good actors flail about with an embarrassing script, I strongly urge you to stay away from this film.

Reviewed by flickernatic 6 / 10

The Kids - and this Movie - Aren't All Right

This is an entertaining movie worth seeing, at times funny, at times moving, but one that fails, frustratingly, to exploit its potential.

Nic and Jules are a lesbian couple, each with a teenage child fathered by the same anonymous sperm donor, Paul. Their children decide to contact their father and he enters, rather awkwardly, in to the family's lives. Nic and Jules' relationship is loving but passionless - they resort to watching gay porn in bed but even this fails to produce a spark - and before long, Jules and Paul become energetic lovers who meet repeatedly to pursue their affair. Paul, who has never settled into a relationship, finds that he has fallen in love with Jules. He also discovers that the children he fathered so anonymously now mean everything to him. He wants to find a way to continue the relationship with his 'kids' and Jules. But, despite the positives he has brought to them, ultimately he is rejected by them all. Nic, Jules and the kids resume their previous lives while Paul is left out in the cold.

The dramatic situation created by Paul's arrival, his affair with Jules and its effects on Nic and the 'kids' is potentially very interesting and worth exploring. Unfortunately, the theme is treated at best half-seriously, as if Hollywood can't cope with this topic without making it into a comedy. The inclusion of several explicit sex scenes is also a distraction which adds nothing to the story. Most disappointing of all is the ending; this seemed a cop-out. Jules is clearly bi-sexual but she suddenly claims that she is all-lesbian; Nic seems barely troubled by Jules's startling lapse; the 'kids' are overly keen to reject Paul; and all this appears to be designed to produce an old-fashioned 'happy ending' in which the lesbian couple and their children return to everyday life as if nothing had happened (what?!) - except Paul, that is, who is told to 'go and find your own family'. Are, then, the 'kids' 'all right'? On the contrary, their parents' antics appear to have left them in a dreadful mess. Maybe we are supposed to take the title ironically.

On the plus side, the acting is generally good, although Mark Ruffalo does too much mumbling and Julianne Moore tends to over-act. The outstanding performance for me was from Mia Wasikowska as the daughter, Joni.

But this would have been a far better, more memorable and thought-provoking movie if it had followed through more courageously. I'm sure Jimmy McGovern would have done it a whole lot better!

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