So far this year, it has become the year I have seen the least number of films since I started going to the movies—age 14. Nevertheless, I don’t give up completely, as there are those little movies that from time to time pop-up, as it’s the case of the following films: The Kids Are All Right, The Disappearance of Alice Creed and Life During Wartime. Each of these films have released over the last several weeks, but even those I am being a bit cautious about seeing. I have heard great things about all three of them and Todd Solondz is the director of Life During Wartime, whose films I enjoy very much.
So, I went to the local theater to check out one of these films to end my curiosity, and I got tickets for Lisa Cholodenko’s new film “The Kids Are Alright“. Not to be confused with the 1979 musical documentary by The Who, also called: The Kids Are Allright or their single by the same name. Interestingly enough I don’t recall noticing this song being played during or after the film, which would have been perfect. I did hear a couple of David Bowie songs however, which I enjoyed very much.
To my delight I ended up liking the film very much! The film was poignant and felt very personal to the director, as Lisa herself had gone through something very similar herself, as she became pregnant in 2006 by the way of an anonymous sperm donor.
The film officially released to the general public following the LA Film Festival on July 31st, where it premiered locally. The story centers around a lesbian couple, Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening), who each give birth to a girl and a boy respectively using the same anonymous sperm, donated by Paul (Mark Ruffalo), as we find out in the film.
Nic and Jules are in committed relationship until Paul comes back into the picture via the kids (Joni and Laser) desire to find out who their biological father was. Their relationship is put to test indeed, as Jules—who is very insecure and dependent on Nic—realizes that something is missing in her life and that she’s bored, so she decides to just let go. Nic on the other hand is a doctor who believes in rules and controlling the family, the breadwinner in the house. Nic’s “exhaustingly controlling” behavior as Joni calls it becomes overbearing and begins pushing everyone away from her. Jules’ stay-at-home mom life changes as she decides to begin her own landscape design business to start being more independent from Nic, and follow a new passion, as her children are all grown-up. Joni is turning 18 and will be leaving for college and her little brother Laser isn’t so little anymore, as he is finishing high school soon, and will follow her shortly after.
Although Nic and Jules don’t want Paul to come into the picture, they are influenced by the kids to eventually all meet and make friends. Little does Nic know of how much trouble this would really bring to her life? Paul, a late 30s co-op farmer and restaurant owner comes into the picture, and the kids and Jules become very fond of him. Nic and Jules’ relationship come to a to a point where it is fully compromised and they realize how much pain is causing one to the other once everything comes to light. The climactic scene at the dinner table just when Nic was just beginning to feel comfortable with Paul is masterful.
Cholodenko’s subtlety is stirring, as one expects an all-out war at the dinner table, Nic just sits there in slow motion and just watches. What the director is able to do here with this script is pure magic. Her story is very compelling and the actors beautifully tell the story to the audience in a very organic way. Annette Bening’s performance is a knockout! She becomes Joni very convincingly, and mark my words; if there is any justice in Hollywood this performance should at least guarantee her a place on the Best Actress Academy Awards short list. Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo were also very strong and delivered very solid performances. And the kids were better than all right; they were perfectly casted, as at one moment—at the beginning of the film—they made the entire family feel like the perfect family.
The film is without doubt one of the few best films I’ve seen this year and highly recommended to anyone. The film was released to universal acclaim since it premiered on January 25, 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival and at the 60th Berlinale festival, where the film was awarded with a Teddy award. The nation’s top critics rate the film 96 out of 100 on Rotten Tomatoes, which says a lot about the film. I rated 90% on my Icine book and highly recommend it to anyone to go see it!