The New Norm
That was a surprise, I thought that "The Kids Are All Right" was a well received movie yet I have read a whole collection of reviews which are critical of the movie, ripping into it because of what happens. I will get to what happens in a moment but the thing about "The Kids Are All Right" is that whilst it features a lesbian couple it is not a movie about lesbians, it is a movie about issues within a family and in some ways part of the point to the movie appears to be to say that a lesbian family unit has the same issues as a heterosexual family unit. And on that basis "The Kids Are All Right" works as what we get is a marriage which after 20 years has issues, issues which are ignored and brushed aside but come to ahead thanks to an unusual circumstance. All of which is dealt with in a mix of humour, stereotypes but also in a surprisingly real and effective manner.
Nic (Annette Bening - Open Range) and Jules (Julianne Moore - A Single Man) have been together for many a year and now have a grown up family unit having both had children via the same anonymous sperm donor. But now with their children Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) grown up not only do the children start to look for who their father is but problems have started to infiltrate Nic and Jules relationship as Jules feels ignored and unfulfilled having been mother and tried but failed to set up various businesses. But when Joni and Laser get in touch with their biological father Paul (Mark Ruffalo - Zodiac) it brings things to ahead as not only does Nic feel threatened by this man entering their family set up but Paul gives Jules the praise and support she is lacking from Nic which makes things very complicated.
So I will say it again, "The Kids Are All Right" is not a movie about lesbians, as it seems that many of the negative reviews I have read have focussed on the lesbian aspect of the movie and how Jules ends up conflicted by her feelings towards a man. In truth the whole aspect of the lesbian dynamic is more to do with highlighting that a lesbian couple face the same issues that a heterosexual couple can face after years of marriage. As such part of those issues are that Jules is beginning to feel ignored by Nic because she doesn't get the support she yearns for when it comes to her business ideas and when Paul provides what is missing it provides emotional difficulty as Jules starts to have feelings for him. It is nothing to do with a lesbian falling for a man but a person discovering what she wants in someone else and beginning to question where they are at in their relationship.
It is more than that because we also have the unique aspect of Paul entering this ready made family when he is tracked down providing two further developments. On one hand we have Paul with his easy going charm suddenly finding himself needing that feeling of family whilst Nic feels threatened by the arrival of the children's biological father. Again it has nothing to do with Nic being a lesbian and threatened by the arrival of a man but more similar to a stepfather or stepmother struggling to deal with their step children's relationship to an estranged parent who suddenly reappears and begins to interlope on their family.
Now the irony of this is that when you think of "The Kids Are All Right" on those terms it makes it a surprisingly normal movie with the humorous uniqueness of it being a lesbian family suddenly dealing with the appearance of the sperm donor. And that is where the movie becomes so easy to watch because whilst we have this array of relationship turmoil we also have humour, from Nic being forceful in her questioning when she meets Paul to the amusing element of Nic and Jules wondering whether Laser is secretly gay, especially when they catch him and his friend watching one of their gay porn movies. That is something which is well worth mentioning because there is a lot of humour springing out of nudity and sex especially Nic and Jules enjoyment of watching gay porn.
What also makes "The Kids Are All Right" simply entertaining are 5 great performances as the entire main cast deliver comfortable and natural performances. Watching Julianne Moore and Annette Bening together there is a real naturalness to the way they interact that you believe they are a long time married couple having to deal with issues they have brushed aside whilst Mark Ruffalo exudes easy going charm as Paul who has somehow has made a life for himself by just doing what he liked. And both Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson work well as the children and again delivering that element of being believable as children who having grown up with two mothers see it as normal.
What this all boils down to is that "The Kids Are All Right" is an entertaining movie which delivers an interesting spin on the family dynamic of a marriage with problems. What it isn't is a movie about lesbianism and watching it for that reason will most likely end up making it a disappointment.