The Kids Are All Right

the kids are all right 1

B+

The premise of The Kids are Alright is simple enough. The summer Joni turns eighteen, her younger brother Laser prods her into seeking out their biological father without their parents’ consent. This sounds like it could be the plot of any late 80′s after school special. Now lets throw in some contemporary twists. Joni and Laser’s parents are a lesbian couple, Jules and Nic, who were each inseminated by the same sperm donor a few years apart. Also, their biological father, Paul, turns out to be a confirmed bachelor who runs an organic co-op farm and restaurant. Now you’ve got yourself an original family comedy-drama with unique characters and a fresh point of view.

Paul turns out to be very flaky in terms of responsibility–he dropped out college, he never maintains anything resembling a serious relationship, and he drives a motorcycle. Nonetheless, Joni and Laser like him and want to see more of him. Their moms soon figure out what’s going on and reluctantly agree to try to include Paul in their lives for the sake of the kids. Paul’s presence affects each of the family members differently, putting pressure on Nic and Jules’ already strained marriage, causing Laser to questions his friendships, and urging Joni to explore her own identity as an adult. What results is an honest and sexy portrayal of a family struggling to redefine themselves both as a unit and as individuals.

I loved The Kids are Alright for its sheer honesty. It doesn’t seek to hide or gloss over the dirty truths of love, marriage and betrayal. It doesn’t coddle its audience into submission over the nontraditional subject matter. And it doesn’t assume that its audience is too thick to “get it.” Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are brilliant as a couple struggling to keep the love of their marriage alive while under the strains of career and parenthood. Mark Ruffalo takes an easy, breezy character that could easily become overly cliché and grounds him with some heart. In fact, this entire movie could have easily become overly cliché. It avoids this by rooting itself in real emotion rather than attempting to force-feed us its message.

It does lose some points, however, for an ending I felt was a little bit too neatly tied. Though we may have never seen characters or a family exactly like this before, we can easily relate to their toils. We see our own family dramas being played out and the message is clear–relationships are all the same, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Directed by Lisa Cholodenko

tags: annette bening, julianne moore, mark ruffalo, the kids are all right

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