Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Kids Are All Right - Theatrical Review

Screened at the Regal University Town Center 6  in traditional film stock.

Release Date: July 23, 2010

Two lesbians go to a sperm bank to get pregnant from the same donor...sounds an awful like the beginning of a really bad gay bashing joke doesn't it? In actuality it is the premise of this quaint and mostly warm hearted look at a simple suburban family and what happens when a person enters their lives and how that persons' prescense effects them all, both good and bad.

The film stars Annette Bening (American Beauty) as Nic and Julianne Moore (Children of Men) as Jules, two women raising their two children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson, Zathura). Nic is a doctor and the bread winner for the family while Jules fills the stay at home mom role despite having her own ambitions. Joni has just graduated from High School and is preparing to head off to College while her younger brother Laser is feeling somewhat confused and alone, especially with his sister going away.

 Nic & Jules hanging out on the couch after a long day

At the behest of her brother, Joni attempts to contact their actual father, the man who donated and gave them life so to speak. They find their father Paul, played by the ever-so charming and aloof (Mark Ruffalo, Zodiac), a restaurant owner and purveyor of organic foods and convince him to meet the two of them. Thinking that the meeting would most likely be a one time thing it turns out that they all hit it off pretty well, but in order for them to continue seeing Paul they must confront their moms first.

From this point on the film delves into how Paul deals with being the unofficial father of these two kids and how both Nic & Jules deal with their kids now having a third parental type in the mix. The trailer for the film would make one think that the movie is mostly a comedy and that Paul gets into all kinds of hi jinks while getting to know his kids, but that isn't entirely true. While there is some comedy to be had for sure, the film gets pretty serious at times when dealing with family values and how hard it is to keep a family together.
The kids meeting their father at his restaurant for the first time

The high concept for the movie (see opening sentence to this review) actually takes a back seat to the drama of the situation thankfully. It is in your face for the first quarter of the movie, but once Paul enters the picture it is toned down quite a bit. That's not to say the film ignores that aspect, quite the contrary, it just doesn't make it the focus and I applaud the film-makers for that because it helps focus the attention on the family.

The middle part of the film is mostly made up of everyone trying to get to know one another. Jules finally realizes one of her ambitions and becomes a landscaper whose first customer is Paul. Both Joni and Laser find different parts of Paul to relate with and some other parts that they don't like very much. Both Nic & Jules learn that their family means more to them than they ever realized before. All of these realizations come courtesy of Paul, the one character in the film that by the end became my least favorite aspect of the movie.

To reveal why that is would be heading into spoiler territory, but let's just say that he makes some pretty bad choices for a guy that seems pretty smart at first that leads to him being sort of irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Although, without those choices the other characters couldn't grow and learn, I just wish that could have been accomplished in a more subtle way than it is done here.

 The entire family together at last

Other minor quibbles would be the sub-plots for both the kids. Joni and her two friends offer nothing to the story at all and they could have been cut out all together and the film would have lost nothing. Laser and the "story" with his best friend just seemed like a needless ploy to give the kid problems and make his character seem important. The real issue at hand with those problems is that they weren't needed, the family dynamic is enough drama to support the entire film, so with those subplots popping up every now and then seemed pointless, especially since neither went anywhere.

 Like I mentioned earlier, this movie has a lot of heart and shows how strong a family is when they are there for each other through thick and thin, even if I didn't agree or understand some of the choices certain characters made. Although, in life not every does understand why certain people do what they do. All the actors did well, although I don't see what the big deal is with Mia Wasikowska, she was fine but nothing too special, at least not here anyway. It was also really nice to see a 21st century family unit where the sexes of the parents doesn't really matter, what does matter is whether or not they are good parents and that they love their children. In the end that was enough to win me over and I recommend you check it out if it makes it way to your town in the near future.



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