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The Kids Are More Than All Right

Maija Gustin | Sunday, August 29, 2010

Though overshadowed by big summer blockbusters like “Toy Story 3” and “Inception,” one of the best movies this summer was the small family dramedy, “The Kids Are All Right.” The film, about a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), their two children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) and the sperm-donor father (Mark Ruffalo), is an honest and real portrayal of what it takes to be a family and why it’s worth the struggle.

Nic (Bening), Jules (Moore) and their two kids Joni (Wasikowska) and Laser (Hutcherson) are a pretty normal, happy family. It’s clear that the family cares deeply for each other, no matter how much they nag one another. When Joni turns 18, though, she and her brother Laser, who both share the same sperm-donor father, decide to reach out to him, and they begin to form a relationship with Paul (Ruffalo). As the five build an unconventional family together, problems arise that inevitably try to rip them all apart. But this isn’t a melodrama about ridiculous family problems that shouldn’t exist — from alcoholism to leaving for college to discovering yourself to making mistakes that hurt those you love the most, this family has to deal with the same everyday problems that we all do.

The relationship between Nic and Jules is one of the most sincere and frank depictions of a relationship ever put on screen. Where writer-director Lisa Cholodenko (“Laurel Canyon”) succeeds most is in creating a very universal portrait of married life in these two characters without ever asking the audience to pass judgment on their lifestyle. It is clear from the start that the two are very much in love. But in spite of that love, or maybe because of it, they often hurt each other without meaning to. These women are two very flawed people, and Moore and Bening never try to glamorize these faults. They are merely two very imperfect human beings struggling to make their love and their family last.

Similarly, through Laser and Joni, Cholodenko depicts the same growing pains that all teenagers must go through, despite their unique circumstance. And while Paul brings something new to the life of this family, especially in providing a father-figure for both Joni and Laser, he takes even more from them. Finally meeting his children is a life-changing experience for him, but he is perhaps the most flawed of any of them and throws a rut into the delicate balance of the family.

The ending is neither happy nor sad, but rather both heartbreaking yet heartwarming, bitter yet sweet and unbelievably poignant. There is something in this family, and the struggles they must overcome, and the love they share for one another hits home. But unlike so many dramas centered on families, this family feels relatable.

“The Kids Are All Right” proved to be a nice change of pace from the mostly action-packed movies of the summer. Though it didn’t have a big release, should you come across it, do yourself a favor and dish out the ticket price to see it. At the very least, it will change the way you think about movies and how they reflect the real world.