For my first reviews, I want to catch up with some movies I saw this summer. I got a chance to see The Kids Are All Right at a Sunday morning sneak preview at the Park Theatre. I always love catching a sneak preview and since complimentary bagels and coffee are provided, how can you lose?
The movie stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as Nic and Jules who are parents to two teenagers. Nic is an OB-GYN, uptight and goal-oriented, the reliable bread-winner, while Jules is more than a little directionless, drifting from one career path to another, currently alighting on landscape design. Nic and Jules each gave birth to one of their two kids, and since they used the same anonymous sperm-donor, that makes 18-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and 15-year-old Laser (Josh Hutcherson) half-siblings. Unbeknownst to “the Momses,” Joni and Laser search out their birth father who turns out to be fun and free-wheeling Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Laser, who was originally the most interested in meeting their father, is a little disappointed in Paul’s too casual vibe while Joni’s initial doubts melt in the face of Paul’s considerable charms.
Inevitably, they tell Nic and Jules about Paul and an awkward dinner ensues. What follows is a series of events that bring Paul into all of their lives and forces each of the family members to examine their relationships with each other. There are a good deal of laughs, maybe too many, and some of them are a little broad and sitcom-y, but the movie’s tone is mostly set by the serious moments.
The cast is superb, in particular Annette Bening as Nic, whose ordered world starts to crumble when it seems like her whole family starts liking Paul and leaving her behind. She sees the danger in his devil-may-care attitude but she gamely tries to win his favour in a hilarious scene involving an impromptu Joni Mitchell singalong. Bening shifts from joy and goofiness to devastation without missing a beat. It’s a terrific performance. Julianne Moore is great as always and Mark Ruffalo gives a natural, effortless turn that is very reminiscent of his breakout performance in You Can Count on Me (2000). And Mia Wasikowska is an actress to watch. She starred in Alice in Wonderland earlier this year and was fantastic in season 1 of HBO’s In Treatment.
My enthusiasm for the movie is maybe a little muted due to some of the comedic elements. However, I think one of the movie’s great strengths is that it’s almost incidental the parents are lesbians. We see a couple who have clearly spent a lot of years together, supporting each other, loving each other, putting up with each other… Being married is hard! And then you throw kids into the mix and the challenges just multiply. The movie is very smart in clearly showing the relationships between the family members and getting the audience to buy it. Well done.