When it comes to comedy, most regular readers here at hoopla.nu will know that’s something usually best left to Stuart – my track record with reviewing the humorous is filled with disappointments and what many perceive to be contrarianism. The Kids Are All Right, then, must work hard to earn its stripes, and actually succeeds fairly well.
Married couple Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have a comfortable life in the Californian suburbs, although after so many years of marriage things have become a little stale. When their children decide to track down the sperm donor who made their lives possible, all hell will break loose. Nic wants nothing to interfere with her idealised view of their family life, while Jules is not so sure how ideal it is.
Where Kids Are All Right, The really shines is in bringing to the screen the mid-life tribulations of a couple so set in the roles they play in their relationship that they’ve forgotten what brought them together in the first place. Moore and Bening are excellent, with each bringing very different women to life, both of whom have real flaws and foibles. Their relationship is really the heart of the film, and their differing reactions to the challenges of life form a window into their psyches. Nic and Jules are very well written characters indeed, but both benefit from the skill of the performers.
Mark Ruffalo gets to have some scruffy looking fun as the lucky father-who-doesn’t-know-it-yet, and his turn reminds us again of how disappointing it is that his career has never quite taken off to the degree many expected. Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson are solid, although neither is given a character as rich or fun to play as their on-screen parents.
Lisa Cholodenko displays confidence and comic timing, milking the most out of the interactions between Nic and Jules and their family – the audience at my screening at MIFF found both hilarious. The script is full of wit but not at the expense of insight, while never eschewing the responsibility of mindfully exploring the major relationships.
The film is a little long, and one particular plot point treads on potentially dangerous ground: one wonders how the film would be received by a lesbian audience, although there was no overt evidence of offence caused among the female couples at my screening. Finally, there is an element of predictability to the plotting, which is unfortunate given how incisive the writing is otherwise.
As far as comedies go, this won’t appeal to the knuckledraggers for whom The Hangover is the height of artistic achievement. It does feature better than expected writing and wonderful lead performances, however, and might find an audience when granted a local release.Rating: