Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are two of the most talented actresses working in Hollywood today. Save for Cate Blanchett they might be my two favourites. They have both given Oscar-worthy performances, Annette Bening in American Beauty and Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven. Bening lost to Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry in 1999 while Moore lost to Nicole Kidman in The Hours in 2002. The Kids Are All Right pairs these two majestic actresses together as a married couple. Thankfully the film is promoted without having to explicitly state that they are lesbians. It is a film about a modern family and Annette Bening owns the screen throughout the entire film giving a performance worthy of an Academy Award. The film is written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko who two previous feature length films are High Art (1998) and Lauren Canyon (2002). I have only seen Lauren Canyon but The Kids Are All Right is proof that she has matured as a writer and director. The Kids Are All Right is tremendously well written and features fantastic performances by all five of the lead actors. This is not a film about a lesbian couple. It is about a real family with honest issues. I have been waiting to see this film since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010 and it did not disappoint. The Kids Are All Right is more touching and heartwarming than I had anticipated. It is the best film that I have seen this year.
Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are married with two teenage children. Joni (Mia Wasikowska) is eighteen and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) is fifteen, both the product of artificial insemination from the same sperm donor. Nic is a doctor and is the dominant personality in the house while Jules is starting a new landscaping business after a series of career changes. Joni has recently turned eighteen and is heading off to college at the end of the summer and Laser has pressured her into contacting their biological father. Without telling their moms they have an awkward first meeting with Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Nic and Jules are upset when they learn that their kids have gone behind their backs to meet Paul and try to welcome him into their life while keeping a distance. Joni's relationship with her biological father begins instantly while Laser is more hesitant. Eager to make peace with the two women Paul hires Jules to do some landscaping in his backyard. Nic feels that her kids are straying from her and spending too much time with Paul and her jealousy begins to hinder her relationship with Jules. Jules, feeling under appreciated at home, becomes closer to Paul and their relationship threatens her whole family.
It is hard for a film that is so deeply emotional to succeed so wonderfully as a comedy. The screenplay is so well written with near-perfect dialogue that the characters and their choices seem realistic. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening are so comfortable and at ease in their roles that we believe they are a married couple and not two actresses playing gay on screen (contrary to how Jules defines lesbian porn in the film!). It is great to see a film that depicts this type of modern family without having to constantly remind us that they are gay. Nic and Jules have the same issues and problems as any couple and it would be reasonable to believe that a straight couple with children conceived via artificial insemination could find themselves in a similar dilemma. The Kids Are All Right is a comedy with heart. There are genuine laughs and there are some tear jerking scenes. Annette Bening is brilliant as Jules and she shines on screen as a woman losing control of her family. It is easy to see why this film garnered the most attention at Sundance. The Kids Are All Right is smart, amazingly well acted, and incredibly funny while being a heartwarming portrait of a real family.
My rating: 4 stars out of 4.