Writer: Lisa Cholodenko,
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Cast: Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, Mark Ruffalo
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published on February 4, 2010.
In about a month, we might have our very first Oscar-winning female director, Kathryn Bigelow (THE HURT LOCKER). Kathryn didn’t set the trend for women in film but this will, without a doubt, boost how much influence and importance women can be behind the camera. This brings me to this year’s Sundance film festival, which had a wide and diverse number of films made by women.
One of these films is THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (not to be confused with The Who’s 1979 rockumentary), co-written and directed by Sundance Alumna Lisa Cholodenko. The film explores family life between lesbian married couple, Nic and Jules (played by Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, respectively). They have two children together, Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) who were born through artificial insemination. Joni is about to graduate high school and trail off to the place were binge drinking and the walk of shame were made popular: college.
But there’s one thing both kids want to do before she leaves, and that’s meet the the man who donated the sperm that helped conceive them. They secretly meet the man (Mark Ruffalo), and now want him to be a part of their life. But Momma and Momma ain’t too happy with that and confusion ensues.
I want to give a high five to the person who cast Benning and Moore as the couple. I’m not sure whether it was Cholodenko herself, or Liz Dean and Laura Rosenthal (KIDS’ casting directors), but this was one of the best decisions made for the film. The chemistry between the two actresses took me out of my element of “this is just a movie,” and “they’re just acting.” They hold one of the best on-screen romances that I’ve ever seen before. Their humor, anger, and attitudes play off each other extremely well.
The reason why this romance works so well is because it was under the terrific direction of Lisa Cholodenko. No stranger to lesbian love, Cholodenko has directed an episode of The L Word, and wrote/directed 1998’s HIGH ART, which won Sundance’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting award. Cholodenko has a real understanding of how this type of relationship should work (hint: just like everyone else’s). Throughout the film, both Nic and Jules are very strong characters, both of them handle serious situations in different ways, yet both stand their ground just as equally on important, real life topics.
The problems for the teens in the film are some of the same problems we faced when we were growing up. There’s always the bad friend you reluctantly hang out with that your parents have hated since “Hello Mr. and Mrs. Blank, I’m trouble.” At some point in your life, you realize that person was nothing but a piece of shit and you send them packing. That’s one of the problems Laser (yep, he’s real name is Laser) is currently facing in his rebellious years.
This is why THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT works, and works well. We’re shown real life problems in a fictional story that gives us real life solutions. Bravo Lisa, your film is more than all right.