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The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right | A film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

"I wish you were gay, you'd be much more sensitive," isn't something you'd expect to hear a mother say to her teenaged son. But when you're Julianne Moore acting the role of Jules, one of the lesbian mothers in "The Kids Are All Right," it's just so much routine chatter at the family dinner table.

The film's title could either mean that, since the kids are straight, they're all right (cynically speaking) or that they're all right even though their parents are both female (still more cynicism).

Let me get this family set in your mind. First, the "all right" kids are Joni (Mia Wasikowska, HBO's "In Treatment") and Laser (yes, Laser), played by Josh Hutcherson ("Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant," 2009). As mentioned, Jules (Moore) is the non-butch mother and Nic is...well...I guess you could call her the husband and father of the family, played by Annette Bening. Nic's an OB/GYN.

Jules is in the landscaping business. Joni, obviously named after Ms. Mitchell by her same-sex parents, has just graduated high school and on her way to university in the fall. Laser is still in high school, but for straight females who may see "Kids," the dude will be a hunk. Ms. Wasikowska looks like she could easily play Gwyneth Paltrow's younger sister, although Ms. Paltrow isn't in this movie.

Yaya DaCosta and Mark Ruffalo

Yaya DaCosta and Mark Ruffalo

But Mark Ruffalo is. His character, Paul, looks as if it has been miraculously transported through time from the Sixites. Paul is a really laid back cat who runs a neat little eatery in the LA area that specializes in very-in organic food. Paul has a girl friend who works at his place who may be one of the hottest black ladies to show up on the big screen in a while. Her name is Tanya and she's played by Yaya DaCosta. Looks like "Yaya" is a good name for Ms. DaCosta.

The other thing that Paul does in the film...or I should say, did several years ago...is provide the sperm for the pregnancies of Joni and Laser. The kids and moms have not a clue who Donor Dad is. But Joni, since she's just become a legal adult, is on the trail to finding out what the male component is in her and her brother's existence.

Paul's second mistake may be when he agrees to receive a call from Joni, as facilitated by the donor place, and thus, meets up with her and Laser at his neat organic eatery to...uh...catch up, I guess. That's when the story gets in gear.

George Sand

George Sand,
ca. 1830

Nic and Jules (Such epicene names: George Sand, already?) finally fall into the things going forward, and the mom-parents, after a while, are pretty cool with Paul making a connection with the family. Everyone is quite adult about it all. After all, this is California.

The lesbian filmmaker, Lisa Cholodenko ("Laurel Canyon", 2002; "High Art") directs and shares screenplay chores with Stuart Blumberg who was the executive producer of the 2009 film, "Leaves of Grass," directed by Tulsan, Tim Blake Nelson.

Lisa Cholodenko

Director Lisa Cholodenko

It's not difficult to see where "Kids" is headed: seems Jules may be a bit bi in her sexual orientation. After Paul commissions her to do some foliage landscaping out back at his place, things slip into a hetero mode as Jules and Paul take some work breaks in his bed. Nic is at work at the hospital.

But you know how women can zone in on the vibes of their lovers, don't you? Just because Nic has an M.D. means that she can pick up the changing of vibes, probably, more perceptively than most.

"The Kids Are All Right" is a low-budget film. It seems normal that no gigantic Hollywood entity would be on edge to undertake an "R" rated project about a lesbian family with two straight teenagers. I guess that's why I sensed the movie's small-budgetness. Also, some of the camera work left a little to be desired and I'm sure that I saw the black nose of a nerf ball on the business end of a microphone dipping down into the frame of at least two scenes between Moore and Bening.

Leaving the lint-picking behind, I would add that I'm glad there are those making films like Cholodenko has done with "Kids." Eventually, it may be with cinema of such caliber there'll be an understanding slip into the social consciousness of America that homosexuals are more like heterosexuals than they are different.

Gays and lesbians can and do love and care for others. There is in the homosexual attitude a need for family and for family support, just as there is promiscuity in either the gay or straight.

"The Kids Are All Right" makes it clear that marriage (whether the partners have the same kind of "plumbing" or not) can be a bitch more often that any human being might want it to be. In doing so, Cholodenko gives time for plenty of laughs along the way---and maybe a tear or two.

Something else I like about this movie is that Ms. Cholodenko goes easy on us males. Paul is really a pretty loose goose, but a really good guy who deeply cares for those his sperm has wrought. Lazer is a great and understanding high school kid, who, although quite sensitive, is a straight arrow.

Mia Wasikowska

Mia Wasikowska

On the distaff side of kids in the cast, Ms. Wasikowska shows real maturity doing the thoughtful and independent Joni. Her character is the one who's got more of herself together than any one else in the film.

Sex scenes are not revealing, and really played for laughs, especially when Nic and Jules watch some gay male porn in which there's nothing explicit but generates a load of mirth in the theater.

Bening and Moore are simply super as the married couple. Both actors have taken on so many really good and important roles in their careers. To mention but two for each: Bening in "American Beauty" and the recent, "Mother and Child" and Moore in "The Hours" and the recent, "A Single Man." Of course, both have done so much more good work.

As she did in "A Single Man," Moore caught my eye once more in another stunning monologue. This one occurs after Jules turns off the TV so she can deliver a speech of contrition to Nic, Joni and Laser as they sit on the couch. The woman is real when she does the lines. Watch and listen for them. They're about marriage. Cholodenko might be trying to tell us something.

"The Kids Are All Right" official site.

In limited release, coming soon to Tulsa.

See Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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