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EVENINGS OUT

 


November 19, 2010

Evenings Out

It’s the adults that are all screwed up

Family film for the 21st century puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional

The concept of gay and lesbian families is no longer shocking, much to Hollywood’s dismay. No longer can a film focus on a child with two mommies or two daddies, and have the plot hang on that development.

Now, those poor souls in Hollywood must go that extra yard and throw in the confidential sperm donor responsible for the two mommies’ children. Of course, when it’s Lisa Cholodenko of High Art and Laurel Canyon fame, one thing is certain: It will be our film, not one for the masses to point and laugh at, or to run screaming into the night in the country’s heartland.

Her latest film, just out on DVD November 16, is The Kids Are All Right, starring Annette Bening as Nic and Julianne Moore as Jules, a lesbian couple with two teenaged children, Mia Wasikowska’s Joni and Josh Hutcherson’s Laser. Oddly enough, the child-abuse implications of naming a son Laser are never brought up in the film.

While Joni has just graduated from high school and is about to head off to college, 15-year-old Laser is feeling rebellious and antsy, doing drugs with his idiot friend Clay and pestering his now-of-legal-age sister to call the sperm bank from which their mothers got the baby batter to make them. Nic and Jules, it seems, each gave birth to one of them, using a donation from the same man so the children would be biologically related as well as emotionally.

Joni eventually relents, and the facility puts her in touch with self-satisfied neo-hippie Paul, played by Mark Ruffalo. He owns a restaurant and has started an organic coop.

At first, Joni really likes Paul, while Laser finds him annoying as hell. However, after introducing him to Nic the doctor, and Jules the aspiring landscape architect, both kids and Jules begin to appreciate his personality. Nic is still apprehensive, finding Paul a bit smug, and belittling his eco-friendly beliefs.

Things start to go awry, as they are wont to do in films, and Nic and Jules’ relationship hits the skids. Can they put the pieces back together before everything falls apart?

Bening and Moore are, as expected, excellent, although the roles seem oddly natural to them. It strikes one, watching the film, that Bening is fairly butch to begin with, although one does not necessarily realize it. The same goes for Moore.

Aussie actress Wasikowska has an almost annoying waif-like persona in the film. Her emotions are written on her face, and her expressiveness is delightful. She also played Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, if that is any indication of her talents.

Hutcherson also has an impressive résumé, although he tends to general teen-angst moodiness in this film. Of course, he is playing a teenage male.

Ruffalo is good. His character’s motivations seem unsure, but at some level he is more catalyst than character.

The long and the short of it is, the kids in the film are far more “together” than the adults at some very fundamental levels, and Cholodenko has once again put forward an excellent film that celebrates queer lives.

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