“The Kids Are All Right” accurately defines the term, Indie pic. The movie comes fully equipped with sketchy opening credits, a hipster soundtrack, a quirky screenplay, kids with peculiar names like Joni and Laser, and two lesbian moms. Throw in a Best Feature Film win at the Berlin International Film Festival and you’ve got yourself certified Indie comedy.
The underrated Juliane Moore and Annette Bening play Nic and Jules, a middle-aged, same-sex couple with two teenagers. Their oldest is an 18-year-old girl on her way to college named Joni, played by Mia Wasikowska who was delightful in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Josh Hutcherson, who has significantly matured since he was last seen in “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” plays their 15-year-old son, Laser. While Jules and Nic have provided their children with a loving environment to grow up in, Joni and Laser are still curious to whom their dad was. They contact the sperm bank and learn their biological father is Paul, a swinging, laid back bachelor who owns a restaurant played by Mark Ruffalo. Nic feels fairly betrayed that her kids want to form a relationship with this man while Jules takes an unexpected liking to Paul.
Writer/Director Lisa Cholodenko has crafted a fundamentally intelligent film about family. The earlier scenes flawlessly embody the awkward tension of meeting an estranged parent as the kids and their moms attempt to build a rapport with Paul. Moore and Bening have an especially strong screen presence together. Although their characters love each other, they are not without their emotional and physical conflicts. The film finds much humor in gay marriage but never cops out with easy gags like something out of an Adam Sandler picture.
The movie takes a wrong turn though in its second half when Paul and Jules develop an attraction towards one another. This seemed more like a requirement of the screenplay rather than a realistic decision. I would have preferred if the movie had dealt more with the relationship between Paul and his kids instead of his love affair with Jules. You might recall that I had a similar problem with the love triangle in “Splice.”
What redeems “The Kid’s Are All Right” are strong performances from the cast and a few winning written sequences from Cholodenko. There’s a great deal of truth to her movie, which does not necessarily wrap up everything nicely in the end. Some characters are left heartbroken and not everybody goes through the dramatic changes you’d expect. The film takes a subject matter that a range of people have experienced, telling a clever story kind of in the spirit of Diablo Cody’s “Juno.” Even though it doesn’t contend with that indie treasure, “The Kids Are All Right” succeeds with charm and genuineness.
Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past five years, reviewing movies on his website, http://www.freewebs.com/radman_ns. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.