Friday, 29 April 2011

The Kids are All Right

Coincidences continue as today I am reviewing another film starring Mia Wasikowska, although here she is not playing the protagonist. That honour goes to Annette Bening and Julianne Moore playing a lesbian couple with two teenage children (one of whom is played by Wasikowska). The performances of Bening and Moore are absolutely brilliant and overshadow the rest of the acting and even the story.

Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids are All Right is a very different kind of comedy drama (yes, it is another comedy drama). For one thing, it normalizes a “gay” family like no other film I have seen. It’s just a two-kid, two-parent family like countless others where the parents each have their strengths and weaknesses, where they love each other, where they have their differences and where, after twenty years of marriage, it’s time for a midlife crisis. The crisis in this case is precipitated, in part, by the unexpected (for the parents) appearance of the children’s father (sperm donor), played by Mark Ruffalo. While it gets quite serious at times, I do think The Kids are All Right qualifies as a comedy drama in its own way. But because it is a very intelligent film that feels quite real (for the most part), the comedy is of the sad and knowing kind rather than the kind that generates laughter.

The Kids are All Right is so unique and honest and so full of fascinating characters, great dialogue and great performances, that I could not help but enjoy it. But the story did not always work for me – sometimes it was just a bit too much. So I can’t give The Kids are All Right the four stars which many critics gave it. I will give it a very solid ***+ and add a warning that this film is not for everyone.

Since this is a “Christian” website, perhaps you are wondering why I do not offer a theological analysis of the lifestyle promoted in this film. Maybe some day I will do so, but at the moment I am unable to go there. You are free, however, to read what you will into my lack of condemnation of the family life depicted in The Kids are All Right.


  1. I think I am going to commit the sin of giving this a rating without having seen the ending. I was quite disappointed. How on earth was this a serious consideration for best picture? I can list so many comedy dramas that are so much better - so what is going on here? Of course, as is often true of "comedy" dramas, it was really a drama with occasional light moments. What I will agree with is that it is fairly intelligent and realistic. I won't quite say 'honest' because I felt the just-like-any-couple motif was actually overplayed (perhaps it was the acting). Speaking of acting, I found myself having a lot of issues with Annette Bening - I can never quite think whether this is a problem with the acting or whether it means she was simply playing a very unlikeable role, and I suspect I would have liked her better by the end. I didn't walk out or anything but something made me stop halfway on Netflix and I never felt it worth finishing later. Best I can do is **1/2. No mug up on this one.

  2. Interesting comments, Walter. This might be a good film to debate at Wild Goose, but you'll have to watch it to the end first.

  3. Alright, I finished the movie, and I would have to agree to liking it a bit better by the end. Still, it feels fairly ordinary and I don't understand the acclaim. I think the reason I don't agree about the acting is that it mostly seemed to work when they were being dramatic; when they were trying to just be relaxed together it felt fake or something - perhaps like the kind of thing when critics say that a couple lacks on-screen chemistry. But mostly is was just alright - nothing new or profound to say - just exploiting a novel concept. I remain at **1/2 (though I probably would have given it *** if I wasn't annoyed at its nomination for best picture).