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.