Saturday, March 17, 2012
The Kids are All Right
Lesbian couple Jules and Nicole lead a more-or-less normal family life, until their teenage kids, Joni and Laser, decide to track down their biological father. It turns out it is Paul, a relaxed organic food restaurant owner who donated sperm to a bank 18 years ago. Their unusual interactions turns even more awkward when Jules sleeps with him, feeling neglected by the always busy Nicole. The family shuts Paul away from them, whereas Nicole and Jules make up, bringing Joni to college.
A restructuring of "Secrets and Lies" from a lesbian perspective, and with a different twist, Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids are All Right" gathered critical acclaim and numerous awards - among others, it won two Golden Globes (best motion picture - musical or comedy, actress Annette Bening) and was nominated for four Oscars and four BAFTAs - not without a reason. Despite shaky 10 minutes at the beginning (featuring an untypically superficial reference to a male gay porn and an untypically superficial sex scene) and rather disappointing 10 minutes at the end (i.e. the director and writer makes the character of Paul just "go away", which makes it seem as if there was an agenda to fit in with the theme that a lesbian family doesn't need a dad), this title based on the eponymous song by The Who compensates with a very fine sense for character development, focusing, just like many independent films, on small gestures, nuances, little details and emotions in daily life that often seem more a blast than a loud action blockbuster. The moment the two mothers, Jules and Nicole, spread their arms to hug a reluctant Laser while sitting on the couch, it manages to engage and keep the level throughout, mostly thanks to shrill humorous dialogues ("What kind of a person donates sperm?" - "If he hadn't donated, we wouldn't be here, so respect.") or sight gags (i.e. Paul watching Jules' butt from the balcony, but quickly moves his view away after the gardener shows up and looks up), whereas a small jewel is the delicious performance by Mark Ruffalo as Paul, the "unaware" father, who won the New Yorks Critics Circle Award.