Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Kids Are All Right

By s. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , ,
(106 min, 2010)
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Writers: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
Stars: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo

Lovely mess.

Two children, Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) conceived by artificial insemination bring their birth father (Mark Ruffalo) into their family life to their mothers' (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) disapproval. 
This movie left me angry because it made me care for the characters and left things in a very cruel way. But it is only a sign of how amazing the film is – it actually made me mad, made me think and surprised me in many ways. The film portrays unconventional family – Nic (Bening) is a doctor and has very controlling personality, Jules (Julianne Moore) is her life long partner, who is more of a careless person, constantly changing job and feeling insecure about herself. They have been together for many years, yet they still love each other and raise two kids – Joni and Laser. Joni is about to leave home for college and Laser is eager to find out who was the sperm donor for their moms, when the opportunity arises.

That's when Paul comes into their lives. Paul is a charming guy, a little bit immature, a little full of himself, but caring and sweet. First he wins kids' hearts, being someone they can talk to, someone they can confess in, without being there to yell on them and force rules like their mothers do. Then he wins Jules over by giving her the opportunity to finally do something and by giving her complete attention she lacks in contacts with Nic. And finally he even strikes a rapport with Nic, who was very skeptical of him. It would all be perfect, except for one detail I'm not going to spoil for all of you.

The thing is that the only person I truly liked in this movie is Paul. He's not perfect – he does what he feels like doing without thinking of consequences. But can we blame him? He is not married, he's technically not a father to anyone – he doesn't know anything about real responsibility. Other people should be blamed, and in the end all the blame goes on Paul. It's so not fair it actually bewilders me – here is a guy who wanted to help people, sure maybe he donated the sperm for money, but all things considered it's a noble way of earring them if it ends in bringing two children to the people who really want them. When Joni contacts him, he genuinely wants to meet his kids, he helps Jules out and he likes that he finally has a family.

There is a moment in this movie where Nic calls him interloper. Whilst Paul chooses the easy way and in a way feeds off existing family's warmth and sense of connection instead of creating his own, she's not entirely correct. Paul was invited in their lives and comparing to Nic and Jules he is actually the most admirable person out of whole bunch. Nic has a drinking problem and Jules is a truly despicable character, her weak personality and acting on a whim was pathetic. The ending baffles me, no, the entire plot baffles me as for why would Nic stuck with Jules, given her reckless actions - I can't imagine this was the first time she did something like this. And the final phone call when Jules talks to Paul made me fantasize about someone actually slapping her across her face. She used him and then she played the victim and in the end – got away with it.

Despite the title not much focus is on the kids – we see their interactions with their friends, we see that they are good people and comparing to their mothers they actually act like more mature ones. Despite being flawed Nic and Jules managed to raise them well. As much as I support the right for homosexual couples to adopt and have kids this movie left me thinking that those children at this point of their lives, would be better off with Paul as their parent, not this bizarre mess of controlling freak and weak, confused woman who has no self control. They maybe “all right” but with him - they'd be better.

The acting in the movie is amazing – Bening creates strong performance but Moore truly shines – I adore that actress and I usually like her characters (apart from “The Hours” and “Blindness”) but this time I truly hated Jules. Moore did a terrific job at portraying lust, shame, annoyance and insecurity. Mark Ruffalo stole the movie for me – I like him a lot and he was truly amazing. He portrayed a guy who is not exactly mature enough to be a parent, yet he is such a wonderful person that even with his evident flaws we simply know, somehow he can make everything work. Hutcherson was rather bland and so was Wasikowska, but she had many good scenes.

The movie has some flaws – the fact that we sympathize with one character that got truly screwed over can't be intentional. I can't see how anyone can sympathize with the mothers. There are also some failed attempts at humor and some scenes that are pointless and lead to nowhere. But overall the movie is very charming and it is worth seeing for fantastic acting alone.


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