Joni and Laser have two Moms and before you think “tediously emotional lesbian turmoil”, think again. For in the sprightly hands of Lisa Cholodenko (director of the under-rated Laurel Canyon plus episodes of Six Feet Under and not unexpectedly, The L Word), The Kids Are All Right is a riotous romp though the challenges of keeping a family, and a relationship, together. Moreover, it's a love-letter to gay marriage and a superior blend of comedy drama as she treats her self-absorbed characters to a liberal dose of affectionate mocking. It's the cinematic equivalent of muesli – healthy, filling and just a little bit hippie.

Nic (Annette Benning) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are the Mom's – a control-freak doctor married, in the unconventional sense for nearly twenty years, to a would-be landscape gardener. They've created a happy home in all its idealism and compromise, one that is given a sizeable jolt when the kids decide (unknown to Moms) to find their sperm-donor father. The journey soon leads them to Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the deliberately uncomplicated owner of an organic cafe (of course). To the initial concern of Jules and the ongoing horror of Nic, he takes up the mantle of father and works his way into their lives with unforeseen consequences.

Well, that's not entirely true for much of the narrative plays along fairly clear lines as new dynamics take shape. It's how Cholodenko handles the material that makes a sizeable difference. In lesser hands this would feel thin, contrived and mawkish. Here it's fleshy, bold and stuffed with honest sentiment that tugs at the heartstrings in a delightful manner. Jules' mangled soliloquy is the stuff of human genius. Better casting than this is difficult to imagine with Benning, Moore and Ruffalo a perfect – utterly perfect - combination of tangled emotion and humour. And as everyone – Moms, Dad, kids – each learn to give a little to get a little more back, it becomes clear that The Kids Are All Right is all right. It's irresistible actually.



Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right is a contemporary family drama set in California, where life seems to be a lot more laid back than in the rest of the USA. It is not the average ‘hetero’ family. The parents are women, Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening), whose children Joni (Mia Waskowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) were conceived with the help of a sperm donation.

Lisa is about to head off to college and her brother asks her to try and help him find their ‘bio-dad’ as she has now reached 18 and can legally seek out the information. It turns out that he is not just your ordinary dull kind of guy, but a spunky, easy-going, fairly successful restaurateur, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). They do this on the quiet and it is only when Laser blurts out the info to his ‘Moms’ they then decide that a meeting should be arranged to meet Paul. Let’s face it, in California, life is more open.

As in all relationships, there is the stronger personality and in this family, it is definitely Nic who holds the balance of power. Paul is accepted into the fold, but things start to change as he gets to know the family dynamics. The story does go down a fairly well-trodden path for a moment and I wondered if it was going to attempt yet another conversion job. I am referring to Julianne Moore’s stunning portrayal of the gal-pal in A Single Man. However, Cholodenko is not that predictable.

Cholodenko doesn’t ram the parents’ sexuality down your throat. As the story progresses, the dilemmas faced are not dissimilar to any other family. Well, that’s any family which has a surrogate parent. Paul is, as Mia says, ‘cool’ and pretty down to earth and he does not mind getting his hands dirty. Therein lays the problem.

The performances are all perfectly pitched. Australian actor, Mia Waskowska (remember her as Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland), is a rising star and has a great future. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening deliver Oscar material and so too, does Mark Ruffalo. There is also a very solid performance from Josh Hutcherson and watch out for the drop dead gorgeous character Jai (Kunal Sharma).

The Kids Are All Right is great independent American film and uses a script that is full of humour and pathos. It could so easily have been real cringe material. Instead we have a smart, intelligent script, by Cholodenko and Blumberg, which will appeal to audiences seeking some emotional truth. The message is simply that families, particularly children, are all important. This may divide the ranks, but I recommend that you go along and decide for yourselves.

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