The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right

****1/2

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Eighteen-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and her younger half-brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) live a happy life with their two middle-aged mothers, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), who both used the same sperm donor. However, when Laser persuades Joni to contact donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the ageing hippie takes a liking to family life, which Nic doesn't like.

Although The Kids Are All Right revolves around two lesbian, same-sex parents, that's not the be-all and end-all. Importantly, in the same way that Brokeback Mountain was more about forbidden love than gay cowboys, this character-based drama isn't about lesbianism - it's how hard marriage and family life can be. And, while you might be imagining dry, blatant Oscar-bait, director/co-writer Lisa Cholodenko crafts an indie-mainstream hybrid too delight both snobby critics and tasteful popcorn-munchers.

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Given that Cholodenko also became pregnant via a sperm donor, there's plenty of honesty and insight. Presenting life as it is (complicated, messy, imperfect, unfair, random), you've probably gathered that is a poignant, true-to-life experience, but what surprises is the humour. In between the well-observed family melodrama, believable dialogue and Bowie-peppered soundtrack, there's more than a few giggles to stop proceedings becoming depressing.

It's the cast that you'll take home though. In particular, Moore and Bening are hugely convincing as a long-married couple, both conveying years of happiness, arguments and compromise with mere glances. The former as a directionless, careerless, flighty free-spirit; the latter as a controlling, boozy, bread-winning doctor. Arguably, the kids are a touch underwritten (well, they're "all right" after all) and the ending feels slightly... unfinished. But still, there's charm aplenty, particularly from Mark Ruffalo as the bohemian, motorbike-riding, organic restrauteur.

Reviewed on: 13 Mar 2011
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The children of a lesbian couple hunt down their biological dad with comic results.
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Read more The Kids Are All Right reviews:

Anton Bitel ***1/2

Festivals:

London 2010

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