Reel Reviews
Movie: "The Kids Are All Right” Shows A Portrait of Family
October 25, 2012
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Released in 2010 and partially based on writer and director Lisa Cholodenko’s relationship with her partner, “The Kids Are All Right” was a critical darling, garnering four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Mark Ruffalo and Best Actress for Annette Bening, among a slew of other award nominations and wins.

Joni (“Alice in Wonderland’s” Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (“Hunger Games’” Josh Hutcherson), a sister and brother living with their same sex parents Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), decide that they want to find their sperm donor father. Joni, who is 18, and able to contact the donor without the consent of either of her parents, and Laser reach out to and meet with their biological father Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a free-spirited farmer and restaurant owner, without their mother's knowledge. When the meetings are brought to light, Nic and Jules demand their own meeting with Paul before the children are allowed to see him again.

The family’s initial meeting goes remarkably well with Paul inviting career transitioning Jules to landscape his backyard much to the chagrin of uptight, controlling Nic. As Paul continues to bond with his new found children, he and Jules grow closer, each finding a seemingly kindred spirit within the other. The pair’s relationship quickly escalates far beyond platonic and they are forced to deal with the inevitable fallout; feelings are confessed and years of frustration and feelings of uselessness are brought to the surface as the formerly happy family unit falls apart.

“The Kids Are All Right” is one of those films where, based on the trailers, you think you know what it is about going into it, only to watch it and realize it was very different than what you had imagined it would be. While the writing and direction is average, the greatest elements of the film are the stellar performances by the actors. Every actor does a nice job throughout, and the young actors Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson show a good range, but the performances that make the film so fantastic are Annette Bening’s and Mark Ruffalo’s; it is obvious why they were nominated for Academy Awards.

Witnessing Bening’s controlling and nitpicking character begin to wallow in self-loathing and insecurity is borderline uncomfortable, while watching Ruffalo’s formerly free spirited characters’ life get turned upside down turns out to be heartbreaking. Unfortunately, Ruffalo’s character is left neglected towards the end of the movie and his story arc feels unresolved. The film could certainly be edited more than it was as it dragged in parts, but overall the story at its core is about family and all of the good and bad things that go along with being in one.              

“The Kids Are All Right” is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some teen drug and alcohol use and runs 106 minutes. It is available to rent or to purchase.