Had Brokeback Mountain never been made, The Kids Are All Right would have taken its monumental place as the “shocking gay movie.” But after California’s proposition 8 and Brokeback’s nationwide controversy, The Kids Are All Right can receive a more open-minded opening. But the superb reviews it is getting are simply based upon its bold themes – for being a movie defending gay marriages – and not for the movie itself.
In The Kids Are All Right, the kids are all right, but the adults are not. Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights) and Annette Bening (American Beauty) play Jules and Nic, an old gay couple whose marriage has become a routine. The spark is gone. Jules is constantly trying to find her niche in life, filling her time with failed career attempts, and Nic is an over-drinking doctor that is working so hard on keeping their family afloat that she is smothering everyone in it.
Nearly 20 years ago, Jules and Nic decided to find a suitable sperm donor and each carry a child so that they could have a family of their own that still shared the same DNA. Joni (Mia Wasikowska, Alice In Wonderland) is an independent 18-year-old. This is her last summer home, as she is about to move away to college. Laser (Josh Hutcherson, Journey To The Center Of The Earth) is a 15-year-old who doesn’t have any true friends and is looking to discover himself.
Because Joni is of legal age to do so, Laser convinces her to contact the sperm clinic to find out about their donor. Paul (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island) is a borderline hippie that owns a restaurant specializing in organic local foods. He practices free love, sleeping with whomever he wants without any commitment at all. His way of thinking can be understood by the way he describes his reason for donating sperm: “it’s a lot more fun that donating blood.”
Although Laser was the one who instigated their meeting, it is Joni who has taken to him. Joni learns what it would be like to have a “normal” family life with a father and Paul learns what it would be like to have a “normal” lifestyle with a family and kids. They both like this new relationship they have.
Of course, having their kids spend so much time with a stranger causes a rift between Jules, Nic and the kids – and when Jules begins to find something in him too, the problem in their marriage is only made worse.
The moral of the story is: “normal” doesn’t matter as long as you have love within your family. But the screenplay takes a very long road to get us there. It feels like it focuses more on gay marriage messages than it does the characters and emotions. For example, Paul becomes a truly loving and caring father figure in Joni’s life. Their relationship changes his life. He quits his free loving and welcomes responsibility. Yet when he makes one mistake that he is honestly apologetic about, he is written out of the story. You can’t help but feel like they dropped him because he was the “straight” who broke into this gay family. In the end, you will care and feel more for Paul than you will for Nic – yet the film sides with and favors her. No resolution is ever given for Paul.
Often times, the screenplay is hypocritical. In one scene, Nic freaks out on another couple for talking about pretentious trends like acai juice, organic foods and composting, yet the entire film revolves around pretentious douchebagery.
Considering this film is pro-gay marriage and gay families, in the beginning, the performances portraying the gay couple sure don’t do them any justice. Moore and Bening feel more like they are playing caricatures of a stereotypical gay couple than they do an honest gay couple. They ham it up. It isn’t until the second half of the film that their performances become strong – strong enough that Oscar nominations are a bright possibility. Wasikowska, Hutcherson and Ruffalo also give outstanding performances. The Kids Are All Right doesn’t lack any acting talent.
The Kids Are All Right is going to be a huge hit within the liberal and gay communities simply based on the story’s content and moral. Although the acting and directing are fantastic, don’t be ignorant to the screenplay’s faults just because it tells a message that you are in favor of.
Photo credit: Focus Features