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Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010 07:11 am

Kids far more than just all right

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Annette Beningand Julianne Moore star in The Kids Are All Right.

The buzz has been steadily building for Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right. The advance reviews have been great and it’s crept into the national consciousness, referred to as “the lesbian mom movie.” Some critics have even claimed in print to liking the film without being able to say why.

The reason is that Kids is an anomaly these days, an intelligent work that honestly looks at love and all its complications. It also isn’t neat and tidy, as the filmmaker resists the temptation to tie up all its loose ends, daring the audience to accept the notion that life is an ongoing drama that resists easy solutions. As for me, I think it’s appealing because it contains likeable, sympathetic characters we come to care and hope for.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a couple that’s achieved the sort of balance necessary for any committed pair to survive. However, their family is put in jeopardy when their children Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) track down the sperm donor their moms used. Unfortunately, the introduction of Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a free and easy restaurateur, into the mix has a ripple effect none of them could have anticipated.

What’s so delightful about the film is that Cholodenko refuses to do what we expect. Instead she introduces messy complications that are intriguing because they’re emotionally honest. The performances are intriguing too, as Bening makes Nic more than just a one-note killjoy, fleshing out the character’s insecurities while Moore shows us Jules isn’t a flake but a woman passionately searching for her calling. As for Ruffalo, you won’t see a sexier turn on film this year. His charm and eagerness to do the right thing makes him instantly appealing and ultimately sympathetic. The honesty of the cast’s performances, and the film itself, make for a rare brand of cinema in this barren summer. It is one of the best movies of the year.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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