"The Kids Are All Right": Too Good to Review

  • The service having id "propeller" is missing, reactivate its module or save again the list of services.
  • The service having id "buzz" is missing, reactivate its module or save again the list of services.
"The Kids Are All Right": Too Good to Review

When I first heard that Annette Bening and Julianne Moore were going to play a lesbian couple in Lisa Cholodenko's new film The Kids Are All Right, I was dumbfounded. I'm still stunned by the very existence of the movie: two Oscar-nominated actresses playing gay in a mainstream release? That's huge, and it makes The Kids Are All Right an important film. Luckily, it's also really, really good.

The "kids" of the title are Joni (the fantastic Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). Bening and Moore play their moms, Nic and Jules. Nic is Joni's biological mom and Jules is Laser's; the kids have the same sperm-donor dad. As the film opens, this modern family seems to be doing quite well. Then Laser decides he wants to meet his "bio-dad," and things start to get tricky.

That's the broad outline of The Kids Are All Right. But as in Cholodenko's previous films High Art and Laurel Canyon, the plot isn't the point: the substance is in the subtleties. This is a character-driven film, full of challenges and transitions and evolutions. But it's not a Lifetime movie — there's no drama for the sake of drama, and no big message. That's mostly thanks to the excellent writing. Lisa Cholodenko noted, "When I felt like the script was veering into the superficial, or politically correct, we would rein it back in." That restraint — the naturalistic style, the dedication to storytelling above all else — makes the film feel organic and true. Even when the characters do something you wish they wouldn't, it's not cringe-worthy or manipulative. These are people, plain old human beings, with all their foibles and triumphs.

That prosaic humanity can turn out to be quite poetic. There's a particularly powerful scene in which Nic (Bening) silently processes a discovery she has just made. She knows the ground has just shifted under her feet, that everything is going to be different from this point forward. The camera waits — holding its breath — as Nic struggles with herself, her skin barely containing the rush of emotions underneath. The scene is a testament



Comments [83]

EJH's picture

Liked parts and agree with the comment about breaking hearts.

I thought the movie was good up until Nic discovers the infidelity. After that it was ridiculous.

It had clearly been written by somebody who never had real teenagers. There is just no way that a 15 year old boy (looking for a male role model father figure – he initiated it), who bonded with his biological father would kick dad out of his life because dad had sex with his biological mother. And that goes times 10 for a 15 year old jock kid who is straight. No way. That … just … would … not … happen.

The obviously confused virgin daughter going off to college wasn’t real either. Any mom knows that girls are usually harder than boys. Boys are difficult, but the idea that a daughter would cast out her biological father from her life because of what happened is totally nuts. Teenage girls aren’t that into hypocrisy. The daughter was obviously straight, which would mean she wouldn’t “get” mom’s sex thing with girls. So that daughter would be nailing her “other mother” to the wall for being a hypocrite and calling her a fake lesbian and all sorts of other screaming around the house. Teenagers are stewing in hormones and totally would get it, especially today’s kids who grow up swimming in that ocean of porn we call the internet. Joni WOULDN’T cast him out, not if she liked him. She would be using that to cook her mom on a skillet. Stare Smile I mean get real people!

Many (most?) lesbian couples are polyamorous from time to time anyway, so Nic could have gotten angry but it’s very unlikely she would have reacted like that. And that little speech delivered at the door to Paul about “find your own family”? Give me a break. Given the shallow, dry, stale, blah-ness of the sex life of those two contrasted with the passion of sex-sex-sex with the “sperm donor” that whole thing was just totally inauthentic. (Could Annette Benning look LESS engaged in bed, more hard-eyed and bored, or have a harder time coming to orgasm? Tired ) Can anyone say, “Lesbian bed death”? Give me a break. That’s just totally unreal. Well, the bed death part is realistic as it gets. But Jules-the-fem choosing a bed death over fantastic sex with a well off guy? I just don’t think so.

A believable denouement would have had Nic take Paul into their relationship for Jules. I mean, come on! These are two “lesbians” who get themselves off watching male gay porn. (And they have ONE tape. Really. One. They have been watching the same old gay porn tape for how many years? Can you say Betamax? Big smile )

See, in real life, Nic would know that if she didn’t take Paul in, Jules would fly away bye-bye. Yes, fellow virgins, in real life lesbians lose their partners to men from time to time. It’s just how it is. Lots of girls go both ways and we all know that a bored girl is a girl whose labia start growing into wings to fly and once she spreads those wings she’s gone-gone-gone! We know that the way to a man's heart may be through his stomach, but the way to a woman's heart is through her vagina. Plus, Nic (being a smart girl) would know that while Paul was exciting and fun, he had a history of going from one flower to the other and most likely he’d be flitting off in a year or two anyway. (If it even lasted that long. Want to see a commitment phobic man run? Commit to him!) I just couldn’t believe that the Nic character could ever act that stupid. The movie’s Nic, the one thing she obviously has in overabundance is serious smarts. A girl like that in her 50's would know the score and know exactly how to hang onto her girl. Smart lesbian – yeah – that part's tres` authentique. Very.

This is how a real Nic would think.  “First, this Paul is a guy who is obviously a commitment phobic. If we let him into our relationship, all I have to do to make him run off is slowly start making demands for commitment on him. Wink Second, my girl is gonna hit menopause in just a few years, and the INSTANT that happens, Paul will hit the road jack. Because guys are breeders, and as soon as the breeding pouch of the girl don’t work no more, his balls are going to haul him elsewhere. Laughing out loud Third, this Paul guy is surrounded by nubile breeder-babes drooling on his collar. One of them will snag him soon – no worries! Big smile Fourth, Paul’s a nice enough guy and he turns on my honey something fee-ro-cious. In fact, I really like him a lot. So let Jules have her fun. We like to watch men, and I like to watch her, so it’ll be good for me too. I get to have more fun, because god knows our sex life has gone flat as 3 year old pepsi.  Cool   Fifth, if Paul’s here in our bed, I can keep an eye on things way better than if my honey is pole-sitting elsewhere. Now that she’s spread herself for Paul, she’ll be round-heels-Mary and I want my ungrateful little slut around.  Party   Sixth, the kids both like him, and with him around we get a free big-brother baby-sitter for Jules’ son. That will be a load off, cuz that kid’s getting to be a serious handful. Cool Seventh, with Joni gone, when Paul goes off with Laser, me and Jules can have time together and not have to worry about anything. That will make for great bonding times. Innocent Eighth, Paul rides a motorcycle. Good odds he’ll croak anyway! Evil This Paul guy has money, just in the nick of time! He can help pay for Laser! Cash God knows Jules isn't going to pay his way through college! ”

That’s how a real smart girl would think. That’s what would be going through Nic’s head and I’m sure it’s how she would play it.

Details:
Gag me with a line. A couple of straight girls playing inauthentic queer girls in a movie having lines about the lack of authenticity of straight girls in movies playing queer girls? Oi vey!

It’s totally obvious the director’s no lesbian. The director has one blah, under the covers, boring sex scene between two obvious bed dead girls. But she directs totally hot, full nude sex between the smokin’ hot Jules redhead and the “sperm donor”. (Not long ago this film would be X rated for god’s sake.) Only a totally straight girl would have scenes like that. It makes her orientation completely obvious. Seriously, this Cholodenko woman thinks she's a lesbian? Maybe she technically is, but her sexual interest is in men. She's only a lesbian because she's had some bad experiences or something like that. Give me a break. This is a director who couldn't make a women's sex scene sing, but makes a straight scene so well? Uh-huh. Like I said to an old girlfriend I helped come out - we went to a men's strip club and she had been just ALL OVER the girls. We got back in the car and I just looked at her, "Honey. You can't fake that. You are NOT straight." 

Seriously, can you imagine a movie directed by a supposedly gay man about gay marriage that has two men in a relationship who watch women having ganger sex on motorcycles? That's laughable. And then if one of the "gay" guys goes bonkers with a hot babe who carried his child for him we are supposed to be surprised and think there is something wrong with her? I think this director needs to be honest with herself. Maybe she's scared to death of men, but I'm sure that her sexual interest is with them. (I'm sorry about earlier. I was a little harsh.) "Ms. Cholodenko, you can't fake that. You are NOT lesbian."

Not2Taem's picture

Fellow Virgins?

OK, that fellow virgins bit explains it all. If you have never had sex, let alone been in a long term sexual relationship, you might want to avoid taking the expert position on this topic.

EJH's picture

Fellow virgins unite!

It's an old joke among some of us "elderly virgins" that we are still "virgins in our own minds" because we never really wanted to have sex with a man even if we got married, had children, and played dutiful wife for 5 or 10 years. The point is that we were just fulfilling what we thought we were supposed to do, while our yearnings were for innies and pillows, not outies that smell like bad cheese.

And this sort of remark explains a lot of why I don't enjoy hanging out with young ones anymore. Too much distance. It makes me feel like I have fallen through a hole in time, being judged by people who weren't even born until I was 30 or 40 years old. It's like having a relationship with one of my kids, and soon with my grandkids. Lots of knowing archness,  much like my remark about "frying mom on a skillet."

I forgive, yes, because I was like that once. But it doesn't make me want to be in the same room. I hope you can forgive me for feeling the way I do.

Not2Taem's picture

I feel like I'm missing something

I am not young, so I'm not sure what the whole "weren't even born yet" thing has to do with it. Also, not everyone has the same experience, even among women who love women, but have spent time with men. We do not all have the same reasons for having done so, nor the same responses to men later in life. The character in the movie didn't react the way that you would have reacted. She didn't act the way that you, or Grace, or many others would have liked her to. Hell, I would have written both of the female leads differently. But the fact is, I know women who find these characters very representative of their experience.

SMBrown's picture

....being judged by people

....being judged by people who weren't even born until I was 30 or 40 years old...

Understandable...however, re-read your original post, which was ALL judgement.  It's one thing to speak from experience about what you might have done in a given situation, another to project that onto someone else, and in the process patronizingly dismiss other's life experience.  Must art speak FOR you in order to speak TO you?

chelilektra's picture

Gah

This movie might have turned me against gay marriage.

This movie might have convinced me that lesbians should not have children.

I am officially no longer pulling for AB to win an Oscar.

AB and JM had no chemistry whatsoever. This wasn't just because they were playing a married couple ten years in. It's because the two actresses absolutely failed to connect with each other and ALL of their contact for the entire movie felt incredibly forced and awkward.

The transition from their sex scene to that of MR and Yaya would have been the most insulting moment in lesbian film history if it weren't for the moment where JM unzips his pants. However, I think that their sex talk with their son takes the cake. These women need the Crashpad. This is not intended as a rub to lesbians who love gay male porn, but come on, dyke porn is very existent and bears no resemblance to their extremely lame vibrator centric clothed sex scene. Good lord.

JM's final speech is the most direct rendition of a movie message I've seen this year. SATC II was more subtle.

Lesbians who sleep with men have got to stop coldly breaking their hearts by hanging up on them citing their lesbianism. 

If this film lacked star power, it would have tanked.

The kids were alright. That's about all I can say in this movie's favor.

In my humble opinion, the lesbian movie to track down this summer is For 80 Days. 

They're like 80, but at least they're real. Shit.

 

________________________________________________________

"Bitch, what you don't know about me is that I can just about fit in the Grand fucking Canyon. Did you know that I always wanted to be a dancer in Vegas?" Silent Bob

Steph's picture

Okay, I didn't even know

Okay, I didn't even know about this movie until now!  Anyways, will definitely go see (or more likely buy on DVD as not sure if/where it is showing here) - LOVE Julianne Moore, think she is a fab actress and agree with Mystic that Bening looks hot with a dykier look.  Also, Mia Watchamaflip was outstanding in In Treatment, in my humble opinion...

I watched the trailer on You Tube and the comment about "micro managing" made me squirm....my gf is always moaning about my control freakery....

Tex's picture

Can't wait to see it....

looking forward to it. Main reason is cause I like Annette Bening (her strong female character was a breath of fresh air in Open Range) . The fact that Annette plays an alpha lesbian makes it extremely appealing to me. It really doesn't have anything to do with Lisa Cholodenko. If it did I would probably be passing. Her Laurel Canyon and Dinner Party did nothing for me. But then she got her start working projects like The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love and Boyz in the Hood. 

I also like Nancy Meyers' flicks - you know, they are what they are. I've seen most - It's Complicated 'cause I like Meryl Streep, Something's Gotta Give 'cause I like Diane Keaton. I'm also an HGTV freak - Nancy's movies never disappoint on that front.  Her early work included writing Private Benjamin in 1980 (remake in the works) and the screenplay for Jumpin' Jack Flash (one of my favorite Whoopie movies). Private Benjamin was actually a female ground breaker in '80. 

I'm all for supporting a woman in Hollywood if she turns out work that appeals to me - entertains me. Which is why I watch movies in the first place.

 

 

Twitter Time @kdhales

SMBrown's picture

Tex, what about High Art?

Tex, what about High Art?  That's where she caught my attention.  Yes it was a downer, but incredibly well done considering the meager budget.  Sheedy, Mitchell and personal fave Clarkson all deserved acting awards, and that can only happen when a director has the maturity to get out of the way and let her actors act.  

(If memory serves, Cholodenko was only on the crew for Two Girls and Boyz, right?)

Tex's picture

Didn't mention it...

Remember, I'm the person who watches movies for entertainment....I don't critique every movie I watch.

Twitter Time @kdhales

Robin Rigby's picture

Per IMDB

She was third grip on Two Girls and a post production assistant on Boyz.  

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0158966/

Tex's picture

Yep....

Starting positions, correct?  

Twitter Time @kdhales

SMBrown's picture

What I was getting at

Tex, I was just trying to clarify (for those who read your comment but perhaps weren't aware) that she wasn't involved in the content/creative side of those pics, vis a vis the other two films you mentioned where she was writer and director.

Robin Rigby's picture

Yes.  Production assistants

Yes.  Production assistants are the lowest men on the movie-making totem pole.  They're basically go-fers.  Third grip would probably be someone who's learning the trade.  An apprentice.  

Lake's picture

Jumpin' Jack Flash......

This is great. I'm down on the docks at 1:30 in the morning. I might as well pin a hundred dollar bill to my ass and scream "Victim here! Victim here!"

Great movie!!!!  Wink

Lake

Tex's picture

JJF....

"I was raised by two lesbians? Come on, Mick. Fuck a duck!"

Twitter Time @kdhales

Lake's picture

LOL!!!!!!

'I got diseases... I got shit that will make your dick fall off!'

 

Lake

Tex's picture

JJL - Whoopi and Penny Marshall at their finest...

"You want a quarter? Kiss my ass! Find me in New York for this fucking quarter!"

Twitter Time @kdhales

SMBrown's picture

Here's the thing:  we can all

Here's the thing:  we can all sit here and debate the politics of this movie--and I've been to some other lesbian sites where women are being even harsher about the inclusion of the sperm donor and the relationship that ensues--but at the end of the day art doesn't happen in a vacuum and it doesn't happen to please a particular community.  It comes from personal experience.  

On Charlie Rose (http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11115) Cholodenko explained that she and her partner had a child using sperm from a donor and that experience was all-consuming for a period in her life and that's what made her passionate about writing this story.  So its focus comes from a genuine place.  If some can't identify with that experience then fine, don't see the movie, but don't trash it because it doesn't represent you or your politics.  Write your own fucking movie!  Or play, or book, or whatever.  Don't expect someone else to do it for you.

While I personally can't identify with the mom thing I'm thrilled that a film featuring a mature relationship, played by two actresses who actually have some lines on their faces, is one of the must-sees of the summer--a season that is usually given over to starlets in as little clothing as possible.  

And for those who think straights can't be our fiercest advocates (a reference to another recent VP blog) Julianne Moore, who was attached to this project early on, played a HUGE role in getting this film made, so big kudos and thanks to her.

yonks's picture

You know Mystic, i love when

You know Mystic, i love when you get mad, sometime, i have to restrain myself for not provoking you even more. Smile

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

SMBrown's picture

Yonks, would it surprise you

Yonks, would it surprise you to know that you're not the first to say you like when I get mad?!  I don't know what to make of it!  Besides the fact that there are plenty of dissenters (those who definitely do NOT love it), I don't think I want to go around appearing to be angry all the time--even if it does charm the likes of you!

yonks's picture

i certainly don't want to

i certainly don't want to interfere in your quest of inner serenity, and

I wish there's more that peoples likes in you than your madness.  ;)

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

Not2Taem's picture

Not all the time

Just for special occasions, like a holiday spice.  Wink

Robin Rigby's picture

I am doing this.  Does that

I am doing this.  Does that mean I have a free pass to critique? Smile

SMBrown's picture

Sure, Robin.  Just remember

Sure, Robin.  Just remember the Golden Rule:  do unto other filmmakers....   Wink

Robin Rigby's picture

Not a problem. I'm open to

Not a problem. I'm open to constructive criticism.

minniesota's picture

Not now

Write your own fucking movie!

Mystics, I can't do that now. I'm too busy watching the World Cup. Wink

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

SMBrown's picture

Minnie, no excuses now--get

Minnie, no excuses now--get writing!   Wink

minniesota's picture

Still busy

Now I'm busy celebrating Spain's win in the World Cup, hah.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

SMBrown's picture

And we all know how long

And we all know how long Spanish celebrating can go on...and on.....

Grace Moon's picture

okay

saw the movie last night.

it was predictable and unexpected.

agree with scribes assesment of dialoge and the acting -- and almost everything else she wrote.

Cholodenko nailed all the arguments, and couple squables -- real lesbian realism... it was unnerving at times.

I did cringe -- for all the right reasons.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

SMBrown's picture

Nice capsule review!

Nice capsule review!

SMBrown's picture

***NEWS ALERT***  Cholodenko

***NEWS ALERT***  Cholodenko and cast are on tonight's Charilie Rose--check your local PBS station.  It's currently airing on the East Coast now (from 11:00-12:00).

Robin Rigby's picture

I have a question about the

I have a question about the choice of spelling in the title.  Is it just to distinguish this film the The Who rockumentary The Kids are Alright?  Or does it mean something else?  All as in every & right vs wrong.  As opposed to the more obvious alright meaning okay.  What is up with that?  It's been bugging me all day.  

scribegrrrl's picture

she's spelling it right

"Alright" isn't accepted by most dictionaries and word nerds like me. "All Right" is the correct spelling. Smile

Robin Rigby's picture

Well, thanks to all of the

Well, thanks to all of the folks who did research into spelling, but that wasn't really my question.  My question was why did she (or the studio, the producers, whoever) choose to spell it that way?  

FYI, alright is the only way I've ever seen it spelled.  I would in fact consider the usage from this movie to be incorrect and I'm known as a superb speller.  Albeit a mediocre typist. Smile

Edit:  Found this on dictionary.com-  The form alright  as a one-word spelling of the phrase all right in all 

of its senses probably arose by analogy with such words as already  and 

altogether.  Although alright is a common spelling in written dialogue

and in other types of informal writing, all right is used in more 

formal, edited writing.

The form alright  as a one-word spelling of the phrase all right in all 
of its senses probably arose by analogy with such words as already  and 
altogether.  Although alright is a common spelling in written dialogue
and in other types of informal writing, all right is used in more 
formal, edited writing.

 

minniesota's picture

It is in my dictionary

Alright is in my Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary published in 1980. So is the phrase, all right. That dictionary gives them similar meaning. It does not have a usage note for alright.What is interesting is that the sentence the dictionary uses for alright is from Gertrude Stein so it has been around for a number of years.

Grammar Girl sheds some light on the situation of all right vs. alright in a 2009 posting:

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/all-right-versus-alright.aspx

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Not2Taem's picture

2nd grade

Really? Alright is in our 2nd grade spelling dictionary, so perhaps it is becoming more conventional.

MacLass_19's picture

Thank God for spell check!! LOL

I've always understood it to be an acceptable variant of, all right. But I'm no expert, heck, half the time I spell my own last name wrong!! 

Smile

 

Amy Nicole Miller's picture

Of course

Of course I would see it no matter what, because like most lesbians, I'll watch anything having to do with us- the most obvious example being TRLW which almost made me straight. This is a compelling review and makes me excited to see it. I totally agree with what you say about the importance of representation in mainstream media- no matter how mainstream it is. When it's good, it almost makes me sadder- knowing what we're missing.

 

mickey06's picture

that part...

"almost made me straight" had me chuckling too. Smile

Not2Taem's picture

"almost made me straight"

She-he-he!  Laughing out loud

Grace Moon's picture

cholodenko interview

just came across an interview with cholodenko on freshair

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128106766

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Not2Taem's picture

Channeling Tina

Watching the trailers I kept hearing Tina. Looks like it could be interesting, though.

http://www.moviefone.com/movie/the-kids-are-all-right/10025812/trailers

* Not playing in San Antonio anytime soon. Closest I can come is Houston or Dallas in a couple of weeks. Thought it would at least hit Austin earlyish. *

SMBrown's picture

Tina?

Tina?

Not2Taem's picture

Yup

To me, the one on the right in the second pic sounds like Laurel Holoman. Kind of looks like her, too. So watching the clip, I kept hearing Tina.

SMBrown's picture

Wait--you did not just

Wait--you did not just compare the great Julianne Moore to Laurel Holloman??  Eegads!

Take it back!

Not2Taem's picture

Only physically

Hey, I was not looking when the trailer started playing and when, "Shit, that sounds like Tina!" Then I looked, and had to look again, because you have to admit, the face is similar. I have never been in the Bettina fan club, so I am not making any comparison of the acting chops.

If you want to give me grief, put it in a PM.  Wink

SMBrown's picture

FU!  

FU!   Wink

Tex's picture

Hurt my feelings!

You and I had a back and forth yesterday, and you didn't proposition me......  

Wink

Twitter Time @kdhales