Director : Lisa Cholodenko
Writers : Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
With: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
Though “The Kids are Alright” is centered around an unusual and hard-to-believe plot with a funny twist to it, the film is not about the plot: it is about its characters.
Nic and Jules are a married lesbian couple who watches gay male porn for turn-ons. They have two teen-aged children who share the same father because both women were artificially inseminated using the same donor. Nic is a doctor and the financial provider in their family, which seems to give her a bit of a bossy attitude and she obviously considers herself to be “the head of the family”. Jules accepts this fact in spite of feeling frustrated and undervalued. Currently unemployed, she was never successful in any particular field and she’s now thinking of starting a landscape design business, an idea that Nic is willing to support but is skeptical about.
Joni (Mia Wasikowska) is Nic’s biological daughter and resembles her mother in that she’s well grounded, intelligent and ambitious. She just turned eighteen and she’s about to leave home for college. Her Brother, the fifteen year old Laser (Josh Hutcherson) is much like his biological mother Jules: he is laid back, unfocused, with no particular goals and having a hard time standing up for himself.
Their family life seems to be averagely happy, though not without problems, until Laser informs his sister that he wants to meet their biological father. Joni agrees (with far less enthusiasm) and so they go behind their mothers’ backs and meet up with the sperm donor who up until now had no idea that he fathered two children. His name is Paul (Mark Ruffalo) and he’s the kind of guy who goes through life without ever worrying about anything, taking each day as it comes and being light-hearted about it. He owns a small but pretty successful restaurant specialized in organic food that he grows himself. He’s a college dropout who never married and never had any kind of personal commitment. He is quite cool - in a hippie kind of way.
Though the original plan (or was there a plan at all?) was for Paul and the kids to meet once, more out of mutual curiosity than anything else, the three seem to bond instantly and, after the mothers get to meet him as well, he becomes involved with the entire family - more than he ought to, with one particular member.
In spite of what the premises may suggest, “The Kids Are Alright” is neither a family movie, nor a “lesbian film”. I appreciated that even though the plot revolves around a gay marriage, this fact is treated with endearing normality, as though it is merely incidental: it could have been a straight couple just as well.
Jules is obviously undergoing a mid-life crisis. She feels unappreciated and she doesn’t quite know what to do with herself, while Nic is pretty much a control freak. When Paul comes along, he seems to be the exact opposite of Nic. He makes Jules feel good about herself. He thinks her idea of being a landscape designer is just so awesome and that Jules will be just so great at it and he’ll be just so happy to be her first customer, because he's just so cool like that. Their relaxed interactions frustrate Nic to no end. This is HER family and SHE's the one who's been struggling for years to keep it stable and together.
There will be sex and there will be tears and disappointments and realizations, all of it so true to reality that you cannot help but empathize with … well, everybody involved. The characters carry themselves so genuinely that they transform this mess of a plot into a very charming and engaging sad comedy, or a humorous drama, or what they call nowadays - a dramedy.
The final conclusion reached by Laser describes with subtle sarcasm the spirit of the film:
"- I don't think you guys should break up.
- No? Why's that?
- I think you're too old.
- Thanks, Laser."
My overall rating : 7.6 / 10
Rating per categories, 10 being maximum of points and 1 being minimum :
Directing : 7.5
Script : 8
Plot and Storyline : 7
Cinematography and visuals: 7.5
Characters and acting : 8