We cannot ignore the fact that modern families are becoming more prevalent in our society. It wasn’t too long ago that that term referred to a single parent or only the mother working, but now we’re into an era that accepts homosexual couples raising children. The Kids Are All Right serves to show that a lesbian couple has the same sort of marriage issues as heterosexual couples do and as the title suggests, they can raise kids that turn out all right.
In case you haven’t heard the storyline or are still confused on the process of this couple having children, Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) used one sperm donor to conceive and give birth to one child each, making their children biological half-siblings. Nic gave birth to the oldest child, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) who’s just turned eighteen and about to spend her last summer at home before leaving for college on a scholarship. Jules gave birth to Laser (Josh Hutcherson), a laid back fifteen year old skater boy who seems to hang around with the wrong type of crowd. It’s Laser who asks Joni to contact their sperm donor, since she is of age and he is not. It makes sense, he’s a young boy in a house full of women and looking for a male presence in his life.
So Joni contacts Paul (Mark Ruffalo), she and Laser go to meet him. Paul seems like an easy going hippie who runs an organic restaurant, and he seems proud of the children his sample produced. But when the moms hear that their kids have met Paul, whom they never met further than pictures and descriptions in the donor catalogue, they decide to have Paul over for dinner as a family before allowing the kids any further contact with him. And cue the family turned upside down.
The film shows that a lesbian marriage is no different than straight marriages. If you want to break the couple into traditional roles, Nic seems to be the breadwinner and the more authoritative figure over the kids. Jules seems to be the flaky emotional half who stayed at home with the kids when they were younger, and therefore the more understanding one with the children. As all marriages do, Nic and Jules have their struggles. After nearly twenty years and raising two kids, that happens to every marriage. Nic can be critical of Jules and can forget to appreciate her, which makes Jules vulnerable and seeking approval elsewhere. Let’s be honest, it’s not just men who find themselves in a midlife crisis.
This film excels where lesser films would have plummeted. These characters are not stereotypes or simple cookie-cutter images of what we assume a lesbian family to be. They are rounded, detailed, smart and believable with all their imperfections. The dialogue they are given is fresh, it’s what real people would say in the moment, not flat movie characters. And if you’re expecting some cop out film full of lesbian jokes, this isn’t it. This film isn’t the place for cheap tasteless laughs, instead they’re cultivated naturally with witty dialogue and a few awkward situations. The feel-good comedy vibe is generated by the way the family connects, rather than actual laughs.
In the end, we’re simply reminded that no family is perfect and they don’t need to consist of a traditional mom and dad. Whether it’s two moms, two dads or one of each, the main elements that kids need from their parents is love and support. Nic and Jules have done a wonderful job with their children, and I hope the rest of the world can see that and accept other loving families, no matter what their structure.
“It’s hard enough to open your heart in this world. Don’t make it harder.”
If The Academy is looking to award a film that puts today’s hot topic of gay marriage in a positive, family oriented light, The Kids Are All Right will win Best Picture.
Boy, do I have a different take on this film! First of all the performances are excellent and I have no problem with the general subject matter–I have long felt that gay people/lesbians have an absoute right to be as miserable (or happy) as the rest of the population in their home lives. But I found the story line here to be ridiculous…and somewhat offensive. The overdone sex scenes between Moore and Ruffalo, which both seemed to engage in at the drop of a hat, all the while that Moore is asserting her lesbianism, just do not ring true. And why does Paul (Ruffalo) turn out to be the bad guy in this mess? I suspect that most guys who got such a call..”were you a sperm doner 20-some years ago which means you are my father”…Are you kidding me? Would anyone have been as nice to the kids as Paul was? Actually, if they were all ticked off at the end, Annette should have pointed out (and Toni and Laser been made to recognize) that they were the ones who set this whole thing in motion…and they opine that Paul should have been a better person? Nonsense! Furthermore, in spite of the good performances, I got a very discomforting feeling of an anti-male bias at work…So, whatever problems there were, it was the straight guy’s fault. I didn’t buy it and, in fact, it kind of ticked me off. There was more than enough blame here to go around and Bening’s “interloper” comment at the end only serves to show that ALL four of them are self-centered and arrogant about their own responsibilities and the feelings of others. I wound up liking the two women NOT AT ALL. Not a big fan of this film.
Ken, while you have many good points, I must say that I found Ruffalo’s character believable. Maybe I’m just naive, but I saw that he’s a very go-with-the-flow guy, so why not meet the kids? He doesn’t seem like enough of a jerk to just tell his sperm kids to buzz off. What makes him a bad guy towards the end is the affair (that I was trying not to spoil) and fact that he gets a little delusional by thinking he can be part of the family. I didn’t feel any anti-male ideas going on, in fact he’s the one who helps Laser realize that his pill snorting friend is a tool. Everything is fine until Paul and Jules have an affair and Paul starts trying to be a parent.
Yeah, the sudden bursts of sex between Jules and Paul was a little out there. But Jules doesn’t feel appreciated by Nic, so when she gets that satisfaction from Paul, it leads to sex. I could justify it for the plot, great wrench to throw in the marriage, but I completely agree that it was needlessly raunchy.
i just liked Paul’s essence and thought he was really a good guy who was fairly blameless in the whole thing. Since his involvement was not of his initiation and he really did come to care about the kids, I just felt like he should not have been the focus of blame or so harshly dealt with.
I didn’t like the affair plot twist at all. A well-structured film otherwise, but I think that they made a mistake there. As Ken said, it didn’t really ring true, or something like that.
I can see why he was blamed. He was the outside influence who began to change things. I would blame him too.
Also Alison, you talk about the idea of this film being that non-traditional families can work even though they aren’t perfect. I would agree, yet what I did admire about the movie is that the problems they did face seemed to be unique to their situation. For example, there seemed to be some polarization with the kids to gravitate more to the mom who gave birth to them.