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MOVIE REVIEW: The Kids Are All Right

This A-list movie is better than all right

The Kids Are All Right: Rates an A.
Courtesy photo

Not to be confused with The Who movie from the late 1970s, The Kids are Alright, this movie does have great music. So many movies try to be hip with their music selections and fail miserably (see Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist).

This movie comes out of the gate with a great Vampire Weekend tune, and the soundtrack is filled with gems I love (I always dug Bowie’s "Panic in Detroit," but seeing the gorgeous Yaya DaCosta – perhaps the prettiest woman in a movie this year -- making love to it, makes me like it sooo much more). There’s also tunes from MGMT, X, and a couple single a duet of Joni Mitchell at the dinner table. (another side note of filmmakers that don’t have a clue about music: I read a long story about Iron Man 2, and Jon Favreau was trying to decide which songs to use. Someone suggested the X song “Los Angeles” and he replied, “What is that? Is it any good? Maybe use some Iggy Pop instead.” What they used was lots of AC/DC)

It’s a shame that The Kids are All Right is opening the same weekend as Inception. It’s not only better, it’s simply the best movie of the year. I was really expecting to dislike it. A few months back I watched Annette Bening in one of my least favorite performance in one of my least favorite movies of the year (Mother and Child). The characters are very similar, too. Both have short cropped hair (to go along with short tempers), and work in hospitals. Bening will nab an Oscar nomination for this performance and it’ll be well deserved.

Julianne Moore, who’s never given a bad performance (although she has appeared in bad movies, just see last year’s horrible Chloe)…also shines here as a slightly spacey character (her conversation during a Scrabble game is hysterical). Mark Ruffalo, who I always love (go rent You Can Count on Me), is relying a bit too much on his smug smile, but it fits this character like a glove.

So, here’s the premise: a lesbian couple has two kids, each from the same sperm donor. The children seek out this guy who is content running his restaurant and organic farm, but really warms up to the kids and wants to be a part of their lives. One kid is happy about this, and one is confused by it.

The same can be said about the moms. Julianne Moore had a lesbian sex scene in the movie Chloe that was sexy, but a bit unrealistic. In this, the sex scene is done to show things (no, that’s not what I mean). Humor (Moore is being suffocated under the sheets, and Bening is confused by the movie playing…and both are embarrassed when they roll onto a remote that increases the volume loud enough for the entire house to hear what kind of movie they’re watching). The scene also shows how this couple, who clearly care about each other, have hit a bad patch in their relationship.

I love the fact that this movie doesn’t go over the top with any of the character flaws we’re dealing with. Ruffalo, the slacker, does things Bening doesn’t approve of (letting the kids ride on the back of his motorcycle), but she’s also smart enough to keep it all in perspective when she lectures her kids (and sometimes him), about the dangers.

Ruffalo is a bit of a player, but it’s not like he’s sleeping with everyone that works at his restaurant (only one, possibly two). It’s implied a few times that Bening might have a drinking problem, but she’s more of a workaholic than alcoholic. And she keeps her drinking in check when need be. I don’t know much about director Lisa Cholodenko, but I sure hope she continuous to do movies this good. A lesser talent would’ve made Ruffalo the villain, instead of the interesting character that we’re rooting for. Sure, he makes some mistakes, but his heart is in the right place.

Some of the stuff is predictable and cliché (a scene where a couple having an affair says on the phone “We should never sleep together again,” with a quick edit to them in bed naked). There’s a poorly written scene involving confusion over whether the son has a male lover. But since every other scene knocks me out, I can give those few scenes a pass.

I don’t recall the last movie I’ve seen, perhaps Prince of Tides, that deals so realistically with what it’s like when a married couple grows apart. It’s done perfectly here. For example, when Moore, who often sides with the kids in thinking Bening is too strict, agrees with the daughter in regards to when she’s going to send out a ‘thank-you’ card; Bening snaps at Moore, “If it were up to you, our kids wouldn’t even write ‘thank-you’ cards. They’d just send out good vibes.” It’s funny, rude, and so perfectly describes both characters. And we can like Moore because she’s not so much of a hippie that she can’t discipline the daughter who snaps at Bening – something a good parent would do.

Someone once told me they thought I didn’t like Brokeback Mountain because of the gay relationship. That wouldn’t explain why I liked the relationship in A Single Man. And I love this relationship (but as Ruffalo says “I love lesbians.”) And I love this movie. It is funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. It gets an A.