The Kids are All Right – 2010
This was a smaller film with a simpler plot. No epic grandeur, no suspense or thrills. Just an easy story with a bit of mild drama, a bit of light comedy, and some fine acting. There were a couple of big names like Julianne Moore, Anette Bening, and Mark Ruffalo, and a few young newcomers like Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson.
The story was centered around a lesbian relationship, but was not about homosexuality. Bening and Moore played the moms, Dr. Nicole “Nic” Allgood and Jules Allgood. Wasikowska and Hutcherson played their two children, Joni and Laser, both products of artificial insemination. The sperm donor was named Paul Hatfield, played by Ruffalo. As Joni is turning eighteen and is getting ready to leave for college, fifteen-year-old Laser decides that he wants to know who his biological father is. Without telling their moms, the two contact Paul and meet him in person.
The awkwardness inherent in the scene is made worse by the fact that Paul seems to be a bit of a loser. True, he owns and manages a successful restaurant, but he also places little value on formal education, is not married, and frequently has sex with multiple partners. He is often unshaven and unkempt, and talks with a slight slur in his words, almost as if he is always high on marijuana.
When the moms find out what their kids have done, they invite Paul over for dinner, and hijinks ensue. At first the results are mildly comical and awkward. Paul’s carefree attitude grates against Nic’s smart, sharp, aggressive, and very structured personality. However, it seems to find a kindred spirit in Jules’ loose, hipster, almost scatterbrained, persona.
To make a long story short, Paul becomes friends with the kids, begins an affair with Jules, and throws everyone’s lives into turmoil. But in the end, Nic finds out about Jules’ infidelity, the kids reject Paul, and after more than a few tears, the family is brought together again when Joni leaves for college. It is a story about how hard work, sacrifice, and forgiveness are strong tools that are necessary to keep a loving family together.
I found it interesting that the film tried to show how Paul was the main reason the family nearly imploded. I admit that he was the match that lit the fuse, but the powder keg was already there. The Allgood family looked fine from the outside, but there were seeds of discontent before Paul arrived. For one thing, Nic tended to drink too much wine. Jules felt inadequate to the way Nic supported the entire family financially. Their squabbling and angry comments to each other seemed to me to be clear evidence of this. Nic was an overbearing and controlling parent, and Joni, who had always been the perfect daughter, was, like many teenagers, ready to rebel and exert her own independence. Paul was just the catalyst which brought the family’s underlying problems to the surface.
The entire cast did a fine job, as did the film’s director, Lisa Cholodenko. Apparently, Cholodenko wrote the screenplay, which was loosely based on her own experiences. Bening won the Golden Globe award for her performance, and both she and Ruffalo were nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, at the Academy Awards.
And lest I forget, I’d like to mention a few of the supporting cast who deserve to be recognized. Yaya DaCosta played Tanya, one of Paul’s employees, and also one of his lovers. Laser’s loser, druggie friend Clay was played by Eddie Hassell. He played the moron almost too believably. Then there was Zosia Mamet playing Joni’s sex obsessed friend, Sasha. And finally, we have Kunai Sharma playing the part of Jai, the boy who has a crush on Joni.
Overall, the movie was just like the kids. It was alright. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. So why was it nominated for Best Picture? It wasn’t the script. As a comedy, it wasn’t very funny. As a drama, it wasn’t overly dramatic. It wasn’t especially insightful or suspenseful. Really, all it seemed to have going for it was the great acting and a mildly interesting plot. I’m just not sure why it was considered for the top prize. It seemed to lack something, but I’m not exactly sure what.
And as a final thought, I noticed that the film seemed to take every opportunity to show the dysfunctional nature of nearly all of the characters, by dropping the “F-You” bomb as much as possible. I’m surprised that such harsh language was used so casually between family members, friends, and lovers, and also by how often as it was used. Isn’t that a phrase usually reserved for enemies? I’m just saying.