Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
DIRECTED BY: LISA CHOLODENKO
WRITTEN BY: LISA CHOLODENKO & STUART BLUMBERG
OVERALL SCORE: 8.25/10

When their children (Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson) seek out their biological birth father (Mark Ruffalo), lesbian couple Nic (Annette Benning) and Jules (Julianne Moore) must battle ever building insecurities, relationship issues, and a weakening family dynamic.

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Wonderfully balancing comedy and family drama, Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right is one of the best films of the year, thus far. The dedication to realism, the depth of the characters, and the various issues they encounter breaths fresh life into the often hyperbolic subgenre dealing with homosexual relationships. Cholodenko's knack for creating viable character relationships allows the viewer to shed preconceived notions, and envelope themselves in these characters.

The viewer is allowed into the mindset of each character. We see Jules longing to be loved, Nic's desire to be in charge, the kids struggling to find balance in life, and Paul (Ruffalo) clinging to the hope of a family he never had. Very seldom throughout its run time does The Kids Are All Right ever feel forced, false, or disingenuous. The movie doesn't try and manipulate you into siding with the actions of one of the main characters over the other, but it wants you to understand each of them.

Cholodenko wonderfully crafts situations and common events to open the viewers mind to the insecurities of these characters. However, like any director, the actors need to deliver, and here each and every one does. Ruffalo, Benning, and Moore carry the heart of the film with their years of experience, while Hutcherson and Wasikowska match their talent scene for scene with great displays of potential.

One thing I found most fascinating about the film was its blatant distaste towards mainstream media based character archetypes. The 'dude' character often displayed as a cool, skateboarding, misunderstood genius, here is an idiot with no respect for anyone or anything. The 'not so subtle high school slut' gets set aside for her obsessive narcissism, instead of learning through some random series of events about true love. Paul, during his many tangents on the 'bohemian' lifestyle he represents comes off pompous. Even Nic, her dedication to work, and Jules, clinging to outward expressions of love, get the cynical eye from Cholodenko.

The well layered characters help to keep things rolling, especially when the plot falls back on some basic narrative conventions. The audience knows things will inevitably blow up, but the want to know how, and why is always at the forefront. Cholodenko keeps you wanting these characters to succeed, and hoping they will. Something only a great writer can truly knack.

The only real snag the film runs into is the lack of a substantial conclusion. While most likely intentional, the film leaves quite a few questions dangling for the viewer. Most notably, the ever frustrating 'now what?' The Kids Are All Right does an amicable job of hinting at the things to come, but it doesn't desire to be too descriptive. For the two hour emotional journey one goes on, it leaves a simultaneous feeling of joy and lacking. Not the most exciting duality of emotions to leave the theater with.

That doesn't change the fact that The Kids Are All Right is one of the better journeys of the year. The performances match the realism and intensity of the characters. The humor is fresh, serving as a perfect counterpoint to the drama. The movie is lighthearted enough to not feel like a burden upon the viewer, while deep enough to avoid feeling cliche. It should suffice to say The Kids Are All Right is one heck of a film.

The Kids Are All Right finds just the right balance between drama, comedy, and life to make its story not only plausible, but incredibly relatable. The film escapes genre cliches with ease, and stretches for that extra bit of realism. Lisa Cholodenko directs beautifully, never substituting style for substance. Cholodenko gets down to the core anxieties of the characters, peels back all their layers and allows the viewer to evaluate them on their own accord. All of which combines to make a great piece of cinema.

4 better thoughts:

Lesya Khyzhnyak said...

Great review!
I enjoyed the movie. How do you think, will it get a Best Picture nod at the Oscars? (I think, yes)

SugaryCynic said...

Excellent review, I got this lined up in my netflix queue.

Candice Frederick said...

i can't wait wait to see this movie. and your review makes me anticipate it more. thanks for this great r

Univarn said...

@Lesya I think it all depends on how much of a push the producers are going to give it. It came out a bit early this year which is generally (Hurt Locker = exception) a bad sign for potential Oscar nominations but I wouldn't count it out.

@Sugary Can't wait to read your thoughts (on the film, not your every day ones, unless of course they're equally juicy)

@Candice Thanks for the kind remarks. I don't want to build it up too much but I can safely say it's right up there with Social Network for best film of the year.

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