Saturday, February 12, 2011
#57: The Kids Are All Right
Two lesbian moms, their sperm donor and their kids come together in The Kids Are All Right to create the proverbial magic of the movies. The kinds that sweeps us off our feet, evokes myriad emotions and makes us wonder what is it that makes a flawless movie. Does it take fabulously written characters, does it take brilliant actors to enact those characters or does it take a refreshingly innovative script? Well, the fact of the matter is, when all three work in unison, what you have us is a movie like The Kids Are All Right.
Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) play a middle-aged lesbian couple, as their kids Joni and Laser live the typical teenager life, who furtively dope and have unexpressed crushes. Being 15 and 18 respectively, a sense of rebellion is building up in them towards their Mums and specifically towards Nic. Between Jules and Nic, the latter is presented as the partner who wears the pants in this family; the assertive Mom who doesn't miss a chance to remind her children about simple things like writing Thank You notes. Nic likes being in control and wouldn't yield any of it- whether it's to her children or Jules. Enter Paul (Mark Ruffalo), whose sperm the couple had used eighteen years back to have their kids. Prodded on by her step-brother, Joni gets in touch with Paul and thus begins a new chapter for their family .The kids take a liking to the smooth and suave Paul who runs his own restaurant and rides a bike- things their Mums would never agree to. The newly formed bond between the kids and Paul begins to irk Nic but things take a turn for the worse when Jules takes up a landscaping assignment for Paul's restaurant. The story is the progression of the changing dynamics of the relationship the 5 of them share.
Annette Bening with her act as the domineering Nic is fabulous. She's perky, emotional, rude, affectionate, possessive and more, while delivering what should count as her best performance ever. When she is hurting, you feel the pain. Her protective aura around her family is the most definitive trait of her character and the story uses this as the fulcrum to build drama. Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo round up an immaculate performance by the cast whose company you'll thoroughly enjoy. Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wachikowska are equally adept in their roles as the teenage 'kids'.
A word for the writers - Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Bloomberg- whose brilliant screenplay beautifully brings out a few subtle nuances in the beginning of the story that later go on to become critical plot determinants. The character traits are etched with such precision that I will be mighty surprised if this doesn't win the Oscar for Best Original Writing. Here's a trivia- Lisa had put off working on this movie as she herself had got pregnant through an anonymous sperm donor in 2006 and eventually resumed work on the project only in 2009. Maybe this break did her good because this is actually the kind of script for which the phrase - 'no praise is enough' was originally coined for.
I am finally going to cap this one off with a confession. In the last 10 years, only 4 Hollywood productions have touched me to the point of breaking down while watching the movie. The Pursuit of Happyness, Julie and Julia, Up in the Air and Up. The Kids Are All Right came very close to being a very worthy addition to that list.