Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Kids Are Alright (2010) - Review

Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko

Written by: Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a lesbian married couple who live in LA with two children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson); yes his name is pronounced 'lazer'... Joni has just finished school with straight A grades and is spending her last summer at home before she goes away to college. Joni has just turned 18 years of age, Laser (who is 15) convinces her to phone the agency who connects them with their sperm donor. The person they are put in-touch with is Paul (Mark Ruffalo); good looking, hippy sensibilities, drives a motorbike and runs his own organic resteraunt called WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). The kids get on well with Paul, but fractures within the family unit start to appear once Joni and Laser's 'Mum's' become involved.

The Kids Are Alright is a lighthearted look at a modern family who on the surface appear to be happy and complete, but  closer investigation reveals human problems that exist in most relationships; which can at times, be painful and complicated. Mark Ruffalo is well cast in the role of Paul, who at first seems to be trying a little too hard to be cool and laid back, but over time we realise he's a good person who likes to live in the moment - and probably always has done; even though it can sometimes get him into trouble. I wasn't sure about the casting of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore initially as I thought the dynamic they brought was too abraisive, but I guess that was the point. Annette Bening's character, Nic, is somewhat dislikeable when she acts irrationally but this is attributed to the long hours she works as a nurse; she is easily the most interesting character in the film. When Paul announces at dinner in a very matter of fact way that he dropped out of school because it 'wasn't for him', it is clear that Nic is very uncomfortable with this; in the same way she is uncomfortable when Jules tries to describe her education and work history to him. She's somewhat embarrassed by them both; she is the one in the family who steers the ship, ensures that the kids study hard, get good grades and get into a good college. The years of marriage have taken their toll and Jules needs to break away for a while, try something new and exciting - but I don't want to give too much away.

This film is nominated for the 2011 Academy Awards for 'Best Motion Picture', 'Best Performance for an Actor' (Mark Ruffalo), 'Best Performance for an Actress' (Annette Bening) and best screenplay. Some of the characters could be seen as a little cliché, and perhaps some of the ideas a little predictable and obvious, and because of that I don't think it's an Oscar worthy film; although if it should get one it should go to Annette Bening as her performance is great.

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