The Kids Are Alright
Positioning itself simply as any other family dramedy, Lisa Cholodenko’s third significant directorial outing goes to great lengths to create a self-superior attitude in order to mask its deeply neurotic and insecure base.
Married lesbian couple Jules (Julianne Moore), a failed architect turned landscape gardener and Nic (Annette Bening), an obstetrician have each conceived a child through the same anonymous sperm donor. With their opposing views on parenting and life, their relationship has begun to run more on routine than real communication. Their youngest child Laser (Josh Hutcherson), eager to find his birth father he enlists his 18 year old sister Joni (Mia Wasikowska) in doing so. Contacting the sperm bank, they’re able to meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a man who may not meet the typical requirements of a father but who interests them all the same.
Forming a close bond with Jules and the children, Nic becomes threatened, a fact that only escalates matters further.
Needless liberalism flows almost as freely as the self-styled intellectual prose. A child called laser, organic growing sperm-donor and weighted references to wine, food and even philosophy; the eye rolling it induced made me wonder if my pupils would ever descend again. Perhaps its done to persuade us that something new is actually being offered when in fact the plot never breaks out of laboured convention and cliche.
The great irony is that despite a lesbian writer/director helming the project, the insults towards lesbians and gay people in general. That a lesbian couple would watch gay porn, that one of them would sleep with a man out of loneliness, that they would assume one of their children is gay reeks of narrow-mindedness. If the film didn’t take itself so seriously, blissfully ignorant to how pompous it all sounds, it could almost double as good satire. One outburst by Bening leans towards self-aware but even that is done with such hurt, it fails to grasp how silly it all is.
As for the overall quality of acting, Moore illustrates how to abandon all the skills one has picked up through a diverse and successful career, resorting to such painfully generic lengths. Similarly Bening, of whom I’ve always had a great admiration, never succeeds in being more than average, except from one silent dinner table scene when she disengages her auto-pilot. Ruffalo exudes a skittishness not uncommon of a user in need of his next hit. Perhaps one of the only genuinely natural performances is offered by Yaya DeCosta, demonstrating an ability I wouldn’t have associated with a former aspiring model.
Indulgent, poorly written and low point for several highly capable actors’ careers, there’s really nothing I can say to offer this piece any real praise.