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August 1, 2010

Review: The Kids Are All Right

The plot of "The Kids Are All Right" is fresh and a bit controversial, to some. Two teenagers who were raised by a lesbian couple decide to contact their biological father - a sperm donor.

Nic (three-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening; "American Beauty," "Being Julia") and Jules (four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore; "Boogie Nights," "Far From Heaven") have a strong marriage and a family built around their two children, Laser (Josh Hutcherson; "Bridge to Terabithia," "Journey to the Center of the Earth") and Joni (Mia Wasikowska; "Defiance," "Alice in Wonderland"). Laser is 15, and getting into some trouble with a leach of a friend. He's curious about their donor father, so he asks Joni, who is 18 and about to leave for college, to contact him. When they do, they meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo; "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Shutter Island"), a free-wheeling restaurant owner and produce grower. As the kids get to know him and then bring him home to meet the moms, Paul begins to influence all of them in ways that expose individual issues they've all been holding back. At first his presence is positive, until the structure of their family begins to crumble.

From the beginning, we see the roles each member of the family plays. Nic is disciplined and structured - the serious one of the couple. She has the career and a strong liking for wine to go with it. Jules is more easygoing and willing to let their kids explore their feelings. She's spent the past few years raising the kids and attempting to start businesses, never finding her true calling. Laser is looking for a more positive male influence and Joni is trying to come to terms with becoming an adult and getting her moms to treat her as such. The family interactions, particularly those in the film before Paul shows up, show an everyday family dealing with typical problems. The only difference is that the parents are a lesbian couple, and it paints a picture of how such couples can raise families in the same way others do, and in some cases can be more successful. The reality that is shown is that no family, and no marriage, is perfect. I think some people have assumptions that homosexual couples are stronger than heterosexual ones, but that is not true. Nic and Jules are going through some hard times, and maybe the issues they're dealing with have always been there. Just like most couples, there is a person who feels unappreciated and put down (Jules), while the other feels they do all the work and that they're always the bad guy (Nic). Paul seems unchanging throughout the film, more like a catalyst that comes along to ignite the less-talked about issues in the family. A wrench in the gears of their seemingly happy situation.

"The Kids Are All Right" might be the most well-acted movie so far this year. The five central characters are all well-established actors, and the dialogue of their interactions is made more hilarious by their facial features and mannerisms. So many subtleties that drive the comedic and extremely tense situations. That's the main tool in this film: tension. It drives the comedy, and even stronger, the drama. When things really get heavy, we see how relationships can withstand so much, and how family situations, like a daughter being dropped off at college, can overshadow the tension.

The controversial issues in "The Kids Are All Right" don't stem from the lesbian relationship, but what some people see as a misconception about homosexuality. Certain aspects of Nic and Jules' relationship seem unrealistic to some, but I feel nothing is intentionally offensive about the situations in the film. It's deeper than that. So much emotional conflict is present, and I feel it's safe to say that's the reasoning for all the actions in the film. Nothing that happens really has to do with Paul, he's just what brings it all out in the open.

Oscar buzz is beginning, and I wouldn't be surprised to see "The Kids Are All Right" on many critics' lists. I must warn you to expect sex scenes that are comical, but sometimes last an awkward amount of time. Then again maybe that's just me. I don't think long or graphic sex scenes are necessary to make a point (and I really didn't need to see Mark Ruffalo's ass so much). Oh, and view the trailer below!

"I need your opinion like I need a dick in my ass!"


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