The Kids Are All Right (USA, 104 min)
Dir: Lisa Cholodenko Writ: Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg.
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson.
Bening and Moore offer two of the year’s best performances as Nic and Jules. Interestingly, both actresses play characters similar to those of their films earlier this year, yet the difference with which they express each part displays the versatility of each great actress. In Mother and Child, Annette Bening played Karen, who, like Nic, is neurotic in her desire to realize her ideals for the family. Whereas Karen was devastatingly damaged, Bening’s Nic is a strong, but fragile, mother fighting to preserve her family. At times, Nic can be just as overbearing as Karen, but with the passionate concern that Bening invests in her character, Nic is far more hopeful and sympathetic. Similarly, Julianne Moore’s Jules feels that her wife no longer finds her attractive, much like her character Catherine in Chloe feared that her husband was being unfaithful because he found her to be losing her sex appeal. In both films, Moore’s characters find themselves in situations that lead them to question themselves, but in Kids, Moore offers a more endearing and sensitive performance that is dramatically polar to her subtle displays of desire in Chloe. Together, Bening and Moore make a most dynamic and engaging onscreen team.
What is most surprising about The Kids Are All Right is the normalcy of the family dynamic. Nic and Jules really aren’t any different from other moms, except for that in their relationship, mom is always plural. Nic and Jules are just like any other group of parents: they’re overprotective, they’re embarrassing, and they’re overbearing at times. Furthermore, they are as concerned for the well being of their children as any heterosexual parents would be. Throughout the complications that arise, Nic and Jules always put the needs of their children ahead of their own. Cholodenko and Blumberg’s script succeeds by simply portraying the family, letting the relationships speak for themselves, and allowing the audience to observe two mothers raise their children as competently as would a mother and father.