(The Kids Are All Right, 8/30/10)
By Nicholas Nicastro
all know that the creation of compelling movie titles is a lost art.
I mean, does much thought need to go into calling a movie Saw, Suck,
A Prophet, or An Education? But titling a poignant, off-beat
drama like Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right is truly
a head-scratcher. Did somebody think the classic concert film by the
Who, The Kids Are Alright, has faded that completely from public
consciousness? Or shall we expect more tender domestic dramas with titles
like The Song Remains the Same, Gimme Shelter, or Stop Making
OK, it's not hard to see why the
filmmakers chose that title. The script has to do with the travails
of Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), an almost-middle-aged
same-sex couple trying to raise teenaged kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh
Hutcherson). This is a hard-enough task made more difficult by the kids'
curiosity about their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Paul is
a hip restaurateur/organic farmersustainable to a faultwho
nonetheless represents a grave threat to Nic and a temptation to Jules
(whose behavior puts the "bi" in lesbian). The ensuing complications
are touchingly and plausibly spun out by Cholodenko and Stuart Brumberg.
Without giving away too much, they also go to show that, conservative
objections to the legitimacy of gay families aside, the kids are not
only "all right", but doing better than their screwed-up parents.
Kids isn't interested in
promoting the politics of either side in the debate over same-sex marriage.
Nic and Jules share neither a perfect relationship nor a fatally-flawed
one, but one characterized by the same old problems of trust, control,
and redemption. Indeed, both women are exquisitely portrayed here; though
this country has nothing like the academic institutions and official
recognition of actors elsewhere, both Bening and Moore are, with performances
like these, becoming more like national treasures.
Ruffalo's character, meanwhile,
is an evolved male with many of the same foibles of his less-evolved
brothers. His blood relation with the kids figures on his side, but
even in an America obsessed with the defining influence of biology,
that doesn't place him in the charmed circle. How Paul finally gets
excluded from the family he helped create is a subtly powerful spectacle.
One of the standard arguments against
gay-lead families is that the influences of male and female parents
are not just nice to have, but necessary. Indeed, the same argument
is made by various groups, faith-based and otherwise, who encourage
men not to abandon their pregnant mates, but live up to their parental
responsibilities. What's most radical about The Kids Are All Right
is its grasp of the hardest thing of all to accept: two women (or two
men) certainly can handle the duties, but in a world dominated by powerful
distractions, parents of any flavorgay or straight, evangelical
or secularhave far less influence on the final result than they
Nicholas Nicastro at his Facebook author's page, Books by Nicholas
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