It was nice to read the news the other day that Lisa Cholodenko’s hit indie film The Kids Are All Right has swollen to near wide-release proportions this weekend, at the height of summer movie mania, no less.
As big name Hollywood studios continue puking out dreck to fulfill their misconceived illusions of what the average moviegoer wants to watch, it’s nice to see a film that premiered at Sundance get this much attention. A film, no less that has at the center of its story a lesbian couple raising two teenagers who bring in their sperm donor “father” into the mix. As un-relatable as this story might seem to middle America, at the heart of the film is the story of a couple.
Cholodenko, one half of a lesbian couple herself, does an amazing thing with this movie: transcend the couple’s sexual orientation to look at how an unexpected anomaly might interrupt what seems like a stable union. Annette Bening plays Nic, as the obvious head of household, a doctor earning the majority of the income, not to mention pushing her lover and children to task. Julianne Moore plays Jules, the more emotional half, smothering others with her love and subtle manipulation. Both actresses inject their characters with such rich complexity and heart that it would be a shame if the powers that be overlooked either of them come awards season. It’s the first movie I have seen this year that I can say a pair of actresses deserve notice come Oscar® season.
The admittedly dysfunctional relationship gets shaken up when Mark Ruffalo’s free-wheeling sperm donor, a self-made man in the organic food/restaurant biz, steps into the mix. The couple’s curious teen siblings played by Mia Wasikowska (on her way to college with straight As) and Josh Hutcherson (struggling from the shift between middle school and high and high school) dig him up out of nothing more dramatic than curiosity.
The result is a delicate look at how the thin cracks of a lengthy marriage can so easily, yet harshly come apart only to reveal a hidden strength within. The movie speaks beyond sexual orientation and looks at the strength of union between two halves of a couple. It is a rare topic in Hollywood movies, which often hype the falling in love part of a relationship and end it there. But Cholodenko knows where to find the drama in a longterm relationship and raise it to a higher level, which is definitely buoyed by fine performances all around, especially by the two actresses at the heart of the story.