Review: The kids are all right

4 Nov

The kids are all right can be most easily referred to as the ‘lesbian parents film,’ but thankfully it does much more than just fulfil a progressive agenda. In fact the film subtly makes fun out of its own ‘progressiveness’ with over-sexed nouveau hippies on eco organic farms, talk of ‘loving local’ and rubbishing of composting (that’s com-post-ing in Yank speak) all winning approving chuckles from the audience.

The story is this: Nic and Jules are a happy lesbian couple with two kids, Joni and Laser. When Joni turns eighteen Laser persuades her to search out their ‘donor,’ the handsome Paul – a manchild who capably shags nubile twenty-somethings and says ‘right on’ too much – and in the ensuing summer of discontent, his presence causes a shift in formerly-established family relations.

This is, essentially, a classic narrative of the happy family being challenged by the arrival of an erstwhile absent parent, with the inclusion of lesbians and a sperm donor to provide a modern twist. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are entirely believable as the long-term couple coming to terms with their children growing up and fighting the feeling of bitterness over the other’s imperfections. Whilst Mark Ruffalo is pitch-perfect as Paul whose new-age posturing and 20-year-old lifestyle, are at first only a bit annoying, but who – by the film’s close – looks like a sad man who doesn’t really know what he wants, but is immature enough to believe that he can obtain it without any integrity or significant effort.

Dramatic as the plot sounds, the kids are all right maintains humour throughout that keeps it from becoming too heavy. Nic and Jules’ penchant for gay male porn is a source of laughter more than once, particularly when Jules attempts to explain to Laser why she and mom prefer ‘gay man porn’ to lesbian erotica. Cue serious embarassment, not from teenage son, but from mom 2.

Paul easily has the funniest lines, telling his newly-discovered offfspring ‘I love lesbians’ on first meeting, while Julianne Moore perfects the laid-back adolescent mannerisms of Jules that veil disenchantment with a lack of achievement that compares so unfavourably with her doctor wife. But it is Annnette Bening, often pitted as the least likeable of all the characters, who really shines in her unglamorous role.  On discovering a shocking piece of information that belies her usual red wine-inspired confrontations, Bening shows all the emotion and resilience of the moment without a single word, as the rest of her motley family carry on as normal around her and makes you feel the tension of the situation beyond the screen.

The kids are all right – though occasionally smug in its middle-class organic openness – ably treads a fine line between comedy and melodrama that never quite teeters over into the tearful end of the pool, and makes you forget that you came to see the film about the lesbians.

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