Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
Premise: The children of a lesbian couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) seek out the man who was their parent’s sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo). When the kids bond with their biological father, his presence causes a disturbance in the family.
What Works: The Kids Are All Right is an excellent example of a film subtly raising questions through drama. In this case, the film presents the viewer with fluid conceptions of sexuality and family and thereby questions our own sense of identity. While The Kids Are All Right doesn’t provide many answers to the questions it raises, that ambiguity gives the film its best scenes. As The Kids Are All Right deals with some heavy thematic issues, it also has a lot of fun with its characters, playing with their expectations and allowing great moments of humor. The family has a lot of reality to it and the highs and lows of the couple, although familiar from other domestic dramas, has a normalizing effect on the film that gives the audience a framework from which to deal with the deeper and more subversive questions. One very powerful subplot of The Kids Are All Right is the relationship between the son (Josh Hutcherson) and his troublesome friend (Eddie Hassell). The two engage in risky and foolish teenage behavior that in another film might come off as general idiocy. But within the context of a story that asks what it means to be a man (or a woman) and how sexuality, appearances, and associations frame identity, these behaviors and the relationship between the teenage boys has all new meaning.
What Doesn’t: The Kids Are All Right suffers from narrative threads that aren’t resolved. The daughter (Mia Wasikowska) finds home cumbersome in her last summer before college and butts heads with her parents over her rights as a young adult. The character also experiences romantic tension with her platonic friend (Kunal Sharma) but the film does not carry either of these subplots to any conclusion. This is also a very talky film in which the character’s primary expression of anything and everything occurs through dialogue rather than action.
Bottom Line: The Kids Are All Right is an important film about family and sexuality. Although it has some narrative flaws, it is a very satisfying and thought provoking film.
Episode: #300 (August 8, 2010)