Friday, October 8, 2010

Movie review: The Kids Are All Right

Saturday night after our amazing meal at Bamboo Sushi, Mike and I saw the film "The Kids Are All Right." It's about a lesbian-parented family whose two teenage children decide to seek out the sperm donor whose sperm fathered them. As soon as I saw this trailer in the spring, I knew I wanted to see this movie.

The moms (played by the wonderful Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) are in that phase of marriage where things have grown a bit boring. Bening plays a Type A physician, and Moore a laid-back, organic food granola type. The teenagers (Joni and Laser) have loser friends, but overall seem to be great kids. SPOILER ALERT (below)!

Enter Mark Ruffalo, the sperm donor. He shakes up their lives to their core. The kids begin bonding with him and ultimately, Moore (who is feeling unappreciated at home) has an affair with him. When her partner discovers this betrayal, everything begins falling apart.

At the same time, 18-year-old Joni is getting ready to go off to college and struggling with her own feelings for her male best friend, on whom she seems to have a crush.

This movie was cowrote and directed by a lesbian...which makes the plot even more puzzling. Was it really necessary for Moore's character to sleep with a man? And how realistic is that, after she'd been in a relationship with a woman for over 20 years? I don't know--I'm not a lesbian--but after discussing this movie with a lesbian friend, I gather that this is very unlikely. Gay/lesbian reaction to this film is mixed, with some extremely adverse reactions to it. It's also interesting that the most passionate sex scenes in the film were between Moore and Ruffalo. There didn't seem to be much passion in the same-sex partnership.

I'm not sure what the point was with the kids' loser friends, except perhaps that they came to realize they weren't very good friends after all. The other good point Mike observed was the main couple didn't seem to have much of a community of friends supporting them. They had dinner with another couple one night (in an ill-fated dinner), but the friendship didn't seem particularly close. In my experience, women deeply value their friends and rely on them in times of difficulty. Where were these friends?

On the positive side, I really enjoyed the film--it was funny and heartwarming, especially so because it portrayed a normal family experience. I had to laugh at the difference between the male and female children, and the scene in which the two moms say goodbye to their daughter at college (hormones and tears galore!). The redeeming part of this film, if you can get beyond some of the unrealistic and Hollywood sensationalistic aspects, is that it shows the warts and the love inherent in this family and in all families. The kids were deeply loved--that much was clear--and the parents were flawed. Isn't that the stuff of life?


  1. hey marie,
    I saw and enjoyed this film also. I didn't think about it from a film critic's eye as you did...but I guess I saw the lack of sparks with Julianne Moore and Annette Bennings's couple as a 20-year marriage more being a 20-year marriage in the doldrums. I'm sure in movie land their passion was as intense as Julianne's with Mark Ruffalo when it was new.

    I guess I saw the passion between Julianna and Mark from the excitement of something new and dangerous and they just went with it.

    Anyway, I enjoyed my time in their world. But of course you don't probe to deep as to how Mark Ruffalo could own and run a hip, successful restaurant and have all sorts of time to hang out with his kids and Julianne...


  2. Good point Jill. It just seemed too Hollywoodized to me that she ended up having an affair with a man rather than another woman (which is far more likely to happen, judging from a same-sex partnerships I know of in which that happened). I'm not saying that could never happen, but it just seems less likely, you know?