Movie Review: The Kids Are All Right

by Vincent Scarpa on July 14, 2010

in Print Reviews

I was fortunate enough to be in New York City this past weekend, one of the few cities  showing “The Kids Are All Right” before its wider release later this month.

I’ve been anticipating this film since I saw the trailer a few months ago during “Greenberg”. I jabbed whoever was sitting next to me and said, “That’s my kind of movie.” And it is my kind of movie for many reasons, one of which is that I’m always down for a lesbian love story.

kids are all right moore bening 2010“Kissing Jessica Stein” and “Imagine Me And You”? I own them both on DVD. More than that, I love a good dysfunctional family dramedy. But even more than both of these, I fucking love Annette Bening. I think she can do no wrong, and if she asked me to hold an umbrella for her every time it rained, I’d be happy as a pig in shit.

She’s a phenomenally underrated actress, and there’s no one who plays uptight quite like Annette. (Annette, like we’re friends.)

The minor flaw of the film, I thought going in, would be  Julianne Moore, who, up until now, I had quite a distaste for. I think all of her movies are about children missing or dying, and I think she does some stupid things with her face when she acts. But with all of the other variables in place, I was sure Moore would only bug me a little.

I was also interested in the film long before I got the chance to finally see it because of the political climate it’s being released in. We’re at a standstill in the LGBT rights movement, where we’ve gotten some visibility and some rights here and there, and maybe we’re slacking off a bit on our chores. And what I hoped Lisa Cholodenko‘s film would do was make the fact that Nic (Benings) and Jules (Moore) were a lesbian couple the least interesting thing about them, choosing instead to normalize them as simply a married couple with issues. What I’m saying is that I didn’t want “The Kids Are All Right” to be a gay film. I believe in the power of visibility, and of normalization, and I had high expectations for Cholodenko to deliver.

kids are all right 2010 ruffalo bening mooreI’m thrilled to report that she did, even more than I ever could have wanted her to. Cholodenko has created a film that is executed expertly on all levels: a perfect script, a perfect cast, and perfection direction. It’s hard to say what I did more of during the film: laugh or cry. I remember distinct moments that I was close to pissing myself (the passive-aggressive exchanges between Nic and Jules I’ll be quoting for the next few months), and also moments where I wished I’d brought Kleenex (not to spoil, but Moore delivers a speech toward the end of the film that will make you weep soft tears). The poignancy of this falling-apart family touched everyone in the audience. I say touched because it was palpable; you could feel how sympathetic that theater was.

This is because “The Kids Are All Right” is, essentially, a movie about just how difficult things like marriage and parenting are. It’s not a groundbreaking discovery; we’ve known this for years, and seen it a million times over. But–and I can guarantee this–you’ve never seen it done the way Cholodenko has done it here.

The difficulties we’re all too familiar with are only exacerbated in the case of Nic and Jules when their two children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) seek out their sperm-donor father, played by who-knew-he-could-act Mark Ruffalo. This throws a wrench into the surface-perfect family that we’re presented with as the film begins. Because these characters are genuinely human (so brilliantly crafted by Cholodenko), things begin to fall apart, as they do. The film is a survival guide in how to pick up those pieces, how to reconcile, and how to negotiate happiness on an individual and familial level. And guess what? It’s not a film about a gay family; it’s a film about a real family.

moore bening kids are all right 2010It might be an early call, but I’m placing my bets that “The Kids Are All Right” will fare quite well come award season. It has screenplay in the bag, but I think the performances here have these actors at their very best. Bening was both callous and endearing, Ruffalo blew me away as the sensitive would-be father, but, and I hate to admit this, it’s Julianne Moore that gives the finest performance in the film. She’s bound to add some new trophies to her shelf with this performance. At the very least, I hate her a whole lot less.

It’s not easy to vocalize just how much I loved this film, because it’s one of those movies that you really need to experience instead of read about.

In fact, why are you even reading this? If it’s showing nearby, cart your ass to theater. I’ll personally refund your eight bucks if you disagree with me here. That’s how sure I am about “The Kids Are All Right”.

Vincent Scarpa

Vincent Scarpa is a graduate of Emerson College, and the recipient of the Norman Mailer Four-Year College Writing Award. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Baltimore Review, and plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing 2011.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Xavier July 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I can’t believe you never liked Julianne Moore before this, sure there was a missing child in Magnolia but her character arc had little to do with it, and did you see A Single Man last year? She was great in that and was robbed of an oscar nom, hopefully it won’t happen again this year. Mark Ruffalo has also been good in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind, I liked him in Shutter Island and he was great in the Brothers Bloom, I actually think he’s quite an underrated actor.

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2 John D. July 17, 2010 at 1:56 am

Really?? I’ve liked Julianne Moore, as well. Mark Ruffalo, too. There’s just something about him I like. Couldn’t really tell you what….

But I’ve heard alot about this movie and I’m actually really interested. I think it’s about time for me to see something like this.

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3 Vincent Scarpa July 19, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Xavier– I did love her in “A Single Man”! And I definitely agree that she was robbed of an Oscar nom (win, even) for that performance. Then again, that whole film somehow went more or less unrecognized. Beats me! Regarding Juliane Moore and missing children, in addition to Magnolia, I refer you to Freedomland and The Forgotten. Just a pattern I’ve picked up on!

John D– I agree, definitely have a newfound respect for Ruffalo, though not easily vocalized. He’s just incredibly watchable isn’t he? Definitely go see this film!

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4 Meg July 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm

This movie needs to come to Virginia Beach already! I’m jealous that you got to see it already and am ready to start petitioning for it at out local \indy\ movie theatre if it isn’t already lined up for release there. I’m glad, Vincent, it received your seal of approval, because I am always down for a good, ole’ fashioned disentegrating (with a kick of dysfunction) family movie. (Ordinary People, Imaginary Heros, Igby Goes Down…sign me up!)

Also to add to Ruffalo’s argument (not just because he’s a hometown boy) is the film \We Don’t Live Here Anymore\. I thought he and Peter Krause were both great in that one!! (Forgive my bias to Krause, I am a sucker for his old tv show \Sports Night\)

And what about \Last Castle\? In the movie, he was up against James Gandolphini, in the midst of the Soprano’s reign no less, and friggin’ Robert Redford! No love on that front, Mr. Scarpa?

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5 Vincent Scarpa August 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Meg- I hadn’t seen Mark Ruffalo in either of those films! I should add them to my Netflix queue!

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