The Kids Are All Right
I wasn’t expecting much. I haven’t really enjoyed too many films Mark Ruffalo has starred in lately, especially when they have long titles that seem more like journal entries — a la Things We Lost in the Fire. And Julianne Moore often takes things more seriously than she should. But Annette Bening completely floored me in Rodrigo Garcia’s film Mother & Child, as she does almost every time out and I had also liked Lisa Cholodenko’s films High Art and Laurel Canyon, so I gave The Kids Are All Right a chance, but I wasn’t excited.
Boy was I surprised.
From the opening credit sequence of two young men careening down a suburban street, one on a skate board the other a bike, wreaking moderate havoc, tipping over garbage cans, going faster than a parent would want them to, having fun to MGMT’s “The Youth,” I knew I was in good hands — energetic hands, with a sense of humor. By the time you meet the family — Nic and Jules, the parents, and the kids, Joni and Laser — sitting through the evening meal like every American television family from Family Guy to Father Knows Best, you will be very happy because you are in for a fun, bumpy ride with enough surprising changes of direction to keep you guessing right up to the end.
What makes it all so wonderful is that the parents in this family are a same-sex couple, and the kids really are the only ones who are all right because ‘The Moms’ are trying so hard. Cholodenko, Bening and Moore have such smart fun with the stereotype of the ideal American family. Bening is the hard-working, too serious, take control, dominant male figure and Moore is the directionless, submissive and needy female, trying to stand up for herself and protect the kids.
Joni has turned eighteen and at the urging of her brother seeks out their biological father. The Moms, being devotedly organized, had purchased sperm from the same donor for each child at the same clinic. Enter Mark Ruffalo, a free spirit, fast approaching middle age, and loving his single and successful life as an organic farmer and restaurateur. He is charming, very heterosexual, and happier than even he expected to know that he has children.
The greatness of the film is in its conception: a family with same-sex parents that is exactly like what we take to be a normal, healthy, well-educated American family. It is also in its execution: the characters are so well drawn in the script, and so happily created by the actors, that you root for each of them in turn to have the happy ending they deserve. Even when things are so complicated that you know they cannot all have what they think they want, you still wish that somehow it could be.
The Kids Are All Right is currently playing at the Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave.