DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, THE (director/writer: Lisa Cholodenko; screenwriter: Stuart Blumberg; cinematographer: Igor Jadue-Lillo; editor: Jeffrey M. Werner; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Julianne Moore (Jules), Annette Bening (Nic), Mark Ruffalo (Paul), Mia Wasikowska (Joni), Josh Hutcherson (Laser), Eddie Hassell (Clay), Yaya DaCosta (Tanya), Zosia Mamet (Sasha), Kunal Sharma (Jai), Joaquín Garrido (Luis); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Gary Gilbert/Jeffrey Levy-Hinte/Celine Rattray/Jordan Horowitz/Daniela Taplin Lundberg/Philippe Hellmann; Focus Features; 2010)

 
"Leaves a lot on the table for those to ponder who might still be unsure if same sex marriages can work."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Lisa Cholodenko ("Dinner Party"/"High Art"/"Laurel Canyon") directs with considerable insight this rather tame but nevertheless poignant adult sitcom dramedy about a modern day American marriage, that never becomes too edgy though its subject matter demands in 2010 a sharper edge than if it was released in the 1970s. If you're looking for positives, it's intelligently cowritten by Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, it doesn't recklessly tear down middle-class values, there's an honesty about each character that shows both their flaws and strengths, and is well-acted by a talented ensemble cast of five.

The middle-aged Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a contented aging bourgeois lesbian couple living in comfort in suburban Southern California with their quiet 15-year-old son Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and bright virgin 18-year-old daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska). They are a stable family with middle-class values. Joni will be entering in the fall an out-of-town college, on a scholarship, where she will board; while Laser, a sensitive jock type still searching for his identity and the right friends, will try to navigate his way through high school without a male role model.

Nic is the aggressive breadwinner doctor, who when tipsy has a penchant for being a nag; while the passive Jules has put her career ambitions on hold at Nic's insistence and has stayed home but is now starting a landscape business with the reluctant support from her mate.

Since Laser is curious about their biological sperm donor father, Joni tracks the man who deserves the credit for bringing both siblings into the world and arranges over their summer vacation for the siblings to meet their agreeable dad. Paul (Mark Ruffalo) is a 37-year-old motorcycle riding laid-back bachelor, who owns a successful local restaurant and is in a non-committal sexual relationship with a hottie black chick (Yaya DaCosta) who works in his restaurant. Paul is curious about the kids and interested to see if they have his traits. The amiable free-spirited Paul bonds with the kids, who think he's cool. Soon Paul is drawn into the intimacy of their family life, and observes how controlling the demanding perfectionist Nic can be and how appealing Jules can be, as he gets close to her when he hires her to landscape his house.

A well-realized awkward situation develops as the thoughtful work, in both a funny and serious way, shows how the entrance of Paul into their lives changes the family dynamics. Cholodenko brings up a few ticklish situations and lets the players work things out from their own perspectives. The Kid Are All Right shows in an entertaining way that a family is a family, no matter the gender of the parents, and that kids raised in a so-called unconventional home have just as much chance to grow-up all right as those raised in a conventional house; that is, if they get love and support. The sound message conveyed in this well-meaning film, seemingly beaming with good vibes for followers of Joni Mitchell, the popular folk singer of the 1970s the couple's bright-eyed daughter was named for, leaves a lot on the table for those to ponder who might still be unsure if same sex marriages can work. Others might just view the pic as a strong family drama, bound to be a classic, that might be more topical, meaningful and twisty than most other family dramas released as a summer movie.

REVIEWED ON 8/7/2010       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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