Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

"The Kids Are All Right" has what I would call a weak start (not counting the exhilarating opening sequence set to Vampire Weekend's "Cousins"). Perhaps that's because, as my friend said, we don't know the main characters at this point. A dinner conversation between the 4 major characters, lesbian parents Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening), and their children Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), is implemented to set tones and introduce the players, but it comes off (as Amy Taubin and others said) "sitcom" and impersonal. In light of the events to transpire throughout the film, I think the beginning (the dinner conversation and everything leading up to the film's main plot point) would be enjoyable on a second approach.

The film's major event is the arrival of a fifth character, by a phone call that Laser begs and begs Joni to make, as she's 18 and is eligible to make such a call. Laser wants to get in touch with their sperm donor, by the name of Paul (Mark Ruffalo), for the reasons you would expect. Their talk is realistically uncomfortable, preparing you for a lot of what the rest of the film's dialogue will be like. But Paul makes an impression on Joni that really sets the film into motion. No, I'll tell you from the onset, is not another "Fish Tank." But it does lead to chaos.

As Anthony Lane said, the film mirrors life in its awkwardness, or at least for me. It takes me some time to get going with someone, but there's a point where I become freed and able to talk freely and to really get to know someone. What I'm trying to say is that there's a moment in "The Kids Are All Right" where the characters suddenly become more accessible, as, as my friend says, I "got to know them." I'm not exactly sure when that comes, but it does, and it makes the film better, especially because (I think) it comes before the problems the characters face towards the end.

The work done by Bening, Moore, Ruffalo, Wasikowska, and Hutcherson has high and low points, but the highs are memorable for everyone. I should issue an apology for Wasikowska, who is beloved on IMDb fan boards and disliked by me for her job in "That Evening Sun." Commenter Adelaide Dupont noted about "Sun" that Wasikowska's "better than some of the roles she's getting at the moment," and I have to commend her for that insight, because it's completely true. "The Kids Are All Right," a (as most other critics have said; I didn't say it at first but felt the need to add after reading an LA Times quote) "humorous" and substantial film, can be weak and at times forced, but it ultimately works itself out, quite well actually. B


Stephanie said...

This is a fascinating premise for a movie!

Stephanie said...

I love the comment about "mirroring life in its awkwardness!" I think that's part of the reason this movie really worked for me.