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MOVIE REVIEW: The Kids Grow Up

But you won't get empty-nest syndrome

Since The Kids Are All Right was my favorite movie of the year and my girlfriend and I love documentaries, when I saw the title of this one I was excited.

It opens in San Diego today and I would say – it’s really not a movie for everyone.

Now, I had friends tell me they assumed The Kids Are All Right wasn’t for everyone. After all, it was dealing with two women that were married to each other, and children that want to find their father. Yet the movie didn’t preach about those things. It gave us interesting characters that did funny things, painful things, and snappy dialogue.

The documentary The Kids Grow Up gave me nothing.

The story is about a documentary filmmaker (Doug Block) who is filming his daughter. He’s created a story about her 17-year life (she doesn’t die, just goes off to college).

But the film really tells us more about Doug, and I don’t have a problem with that. It’s just the fact that I don’t find him (or his family) all that interesting. He seems to pressure his daughter into making this movie for his own selfish reasons.

When I got the opportunity to interview him, I was thrilled. It’s always great to talk to the filmmakers that are talented enough to make movies.

I first asked him if the negativity around reality shows (Gossling’s, Kardashian’s, Lohan’s, etc) made him feel at all like he was exploiting his daughter, who is constantly seen saying

“Stop filming me!”

“Not really, because I bent over backwards to make it clear that she's not the kind of kid who would want to be the star of her own reality TV show.So I included every moment where she even hinted that she wasn't thrilled at being filmed.To the point where people sometimes misunderstand and think that all I ever did was hound my poor daughter with my camera her entire life.The reality is, I shot no more than most fathers do with their children over the years. It was just a different kind of footage than the usual.”

I find it hard to believe that he’s shot no more footage than the average father. Sure, he has shots of her playing volleyball or dancing – but I’m guessing he has hours and hours and hours of footage of his child that most people don’t have.

At times, I thought it was interesting to see video clips of him as a child, playing football in the street or having a party in his backyard.

Oh, and that leads me to another problem I had with this movie.

When an 18th party is thrown for their daughter, her and her friends (who also look to be high school girls) are drinking alcohol. And this comes after we see scenes of them letting her boyfriend from France come spend the night for five weeks (the girl was 17 at the time). Their logic was typical dopey logic parents sometimes use. They say it would be hypocritical for them, because of stuff they did as kids.

What a cop-out. You could’ve done heroin when you were a teenager, and cleaned yourself up and now have a great life. Does that mean if your 17-year-old wants to try it, you’d have to let her because you did? Or that you’d have to give full-disclosure on your past activities? No. A parents job is to raise their child the best way possible, and that doesn’t mean you have to say “Well, yes…your mother and I were having sex in the back of a car when we were teenagers, but we don’t want you to.”

They could’ve said “Look…we don’t mind if you’re having sex, if you’re being safe about it. Or if you are in a long-term relationship; but we can’t let you, at 17, have a guy from France (who doesn’t even know English and they can’t talk to) spend the night here for five weeks.

And what if as kids, the parents smoked a lot of pot, but they didn’t use it as a gateway drug or didn’t become addicted? That doesn’t mean their child won’t. Not to mention the fact that, you can’t necessarily use that logic or argument with kids. They hear what they want and might just rebel. So instead, you tell them no the best way you know how.

When I express my anger to Block about these things he replies, “All I'll say to that is Lucy was an extraordinary child and she's an even more extraordinary adult, so we must have been doing something right as parents.”

Again, faulty logic. I’m guessing there are some children that were beat constantly by their parents, or sexually abused by their father – and they are now extraordinary adults. It doesn’t mean the parents “must’ve been doing something right.” It just means the child became an extraordinary adult despite their circumstance.

Now, in no way am I comparing this life to that of someone abused. She looks like she had a wonderful childhood, and videos of her as a kid are cute. How could you not smile when she’s asked what she wants to do when she grows up and says “Drive an ice cream truck.”

My daughter, at around the same age, said she wanted to work at a donut shop. I replied “If you do that when you grow up, I can guarantee you’ll see a lot more of me.”

I was a little perplexed by something else Block said in the interview.

“I would never have done this film without Lucy's permissionat every turn. If she didn't want me to shoot something, I wouldn't. If she asked me to turn it off in the middle of shooting something, I turned it off.”

Well, I distinctly remember a scene where Lucy was crying and said “I don’t want to be filmed!” And in Blocks wimpy, whiney voice I hear “I know, but…” and he keeps the camera rolling.

Another time, she is yelling at him for the third time, about not wanting to be filmed. And he says nothing, just zooms in for a close-up of her face. The camera stays there for a few seconds.

I think if she said the camera should be turned off, it should shut off immediately. There shouldn’t be pleading and arguing about it while the camera rolls.

I can’t tell you how disgusted I was after one of these arguments about whether or not he should continue filming and the camera does turn off; only to come on again, with her crying and apologizing to her dad. She’s apologizing to him!!!

There’s another scene I was a little uneasy about. It was when the wife went through a bout of depression. It didn’t bother me as much with him filming that, as she’s an adult that can insist he shut the camera off. Block explained:

“The only reason I shot the scene to begin with -- which was the most difficult thing I've ever shot in my life by far -- was because I knew that Marjorie would want me to. She's made it a mission of hers to help others with depression, especially her law students, by being very candid about her own history of depression. Naturally, she was the first to see the edited scene and had total power to have it removed from the film.But she's extremely proud of it, in the sense that it's treated somewhat matter-of-factly in the filmand made to seem like nothing to be ashamed of. She speaks often to audiences after our screenings and her highest hope is that, because the film isn't about depression at all, it will serve to destygmatize depression and inspire others suffering from it to feel less shame around it.”

There are so many elements of this film that are just clichés, that made me think the filmmaker wanted it to be more important and bigger than it was. After his dad speaks, he mentions how his father is nicer now, and the wisdom he has. I immediately thought of a 5 minute routine Bill Cosby does on this that was more entertaining than this entire movie.

Many times the filmmaker talks about dealing with “empty nest syndrome.” Well, he doesn’t show signs of that. I think he’s more worried that his main subject for a film is leaving, not a daughter.

I think a documentary on empty nest syndrome, with multiple families, would’ve been a fabulous film to see. Instead, we get this movie, dealing with one family.

I can’t say I was bored to tears watching it. Once you get invested in the family and characters, you want to see where it will go.

I don’t usually say in my reviews what my friends think of the movies, but in this case, I think it’s important to mention that my girlfriend liked it. Her and I are both tough on movies, and I was surprised this movie worked for her, but it did.

I’m giving it a D.