The feminine prerogative: 8 notes on Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right
1) Currently, The Kids Are All Right enjoys a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and yet it still (spoiler alert) ends with a group hug. The film views like a top-notch television drama with many touching moments of sundering and reconciliation.
2) Written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, the movie mostly focuses on a middle-aged lesbian couple Jules and Nic (played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, respectively). They are so emotionally aware, so sensitive to each other's needs from scene to scene, so in touch with their feelings, the movie kept making me laugh. It's ironic that the storyline ultimately concerns infidelity, because neither Jules nor Nic can scarcely say a word without gauging the other's reaction.
3) Then, like thunder, Mark Ruffalo enters the picture as Paul, the sperm donor, who strikes up a friendship with his biological children (the teenage Joni--and former Alice--Mia Waskikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) who have been raised by their biological mothers, Jules and Nic.
With only his motorcycle, his co-op garden, and his organic restaurant, Paul still proves a threat to Jules and Nic's fragile accord. Can this movie allow a man, even such a laid back Californian like this one, to impose his masculine prerogative on things? NO!!! He may not. That's the film's agenda in a nutshell.
4) That said, Paul does try to weaselly insinuate himself into the Jules and Nic household, using his biological connection to try to establish retroactive family ties.
5) Meanwhile, Laser befriends a crude punk named Clay (Eddie Hassell) who likes to jump on top of (and fall off of) dumpsters with his skateboard when he's not urinating on a stray dog's head. Oddly, Laser prefers to listen to Paul, not his mothers, when it comes to dumping Clay. Perhaps because he didn't have to raise them, Paul can teach the teenagers ways to gain their independence, but he's cast from the household as an interloper all the same.
6) Given the film's many strengths (especially the acting, the witty screenplay, and its emotional honesty), I still wonder if the critics like this movie in part because it affirms their enlightened political views, not to mention the importance of eating locally, driving a Prius, and wearing Birkenstocks sandals and/or Converse sneakers. Does a movie's Rotten Tomatoes approval rating shoot up if a Volvo SUV appears in several of its scenes?
7) I wish The Kids Are All Right had a little more edge, a greater willingness to mock its politically correct, green, extremely sensitive California ethos. That is why Bening's portrayal of Nic's anger is so crucial. At times, in her scene-stealing fury, she threatens to turn all of the prevailing liberal pieties on their heads. As she hilariously says one night at a restaurant with Jules and friends:
"Just fucking kill me, okay? I'm sorry guys, but I just can't with fucking hemp milk and the organic farming and if I hear one more person say they love heirloom tomatoes, I'm going to fucking kill myself, okay? And did you know that we're composting now? Oh yeah. Oh no, don't throw that in the trash. You have to put it in the composting bin where all of the beautiful worms will turn it into this organic mulch and then we'll all feel good about ourselves. I can't do it, okay? I can't fucking do it."
8) Ultimately, The Kids Are All Right left me all ready to burp, scratch my belly, and eat a Big Mac while watching college football. Do we have any Funyuns in the house?