Sundance Review: Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right
by Brandon Lee Tenney
January 31, 2010
There's been an outstanding showing of female filmmakers at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Lisa Cholodenko, director of The Kids Are All Right, is certainly among that group. The film finds its focus around a family that just so happens to consist of two lesbian parents and two children who were conceived through artificial insemination. It's when Joni, the eldest child played by Mia Wasikowska, decides to call her birth father -- read: the sperm donor -- that the film takes off. The film explores family, love, relationships, and all ranges of emotion better than most films. It's simply a beautiful portrayal of a contemporary family dealing with life changes big and small.
The film, most of all, rests on the relationship between Jules and Nic, played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, respectively. Never for a second did I question the love these two women shared for one another one screen. What Making Love did for cinematic male homosexual relationships, The Kids Are All Right does for lesbian relationships. There's absolute care and heart in the writing. And, at the end of film, it's not simply a movie about a lesbian relationship, but a film about marriage in general.
The rest of the film is Joni and Laser's (played by Josh Hutcherson). Upon meeting their birth father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), they discover he's not exactly the person they each thought he would be; and he's certainly not the man they each wanted him to be. Wasikowska's internalized, honest performance as Joni perfectly captures the eighteen-year-old will to break free of one's parents, but the lingering need for them. And Mark Ruffalo is just great as the lovable loser leech. The film, while heartfelt and true, is more often funny than it's not. In all of the screenings I attended, save High School, The Kids Are All Right received the most laughs. It's a beautiful film with a lot to say, and it says it all wonderfully.
Brandon's Sundance Rating: 8.5 out of 10