Nice Living Room!

Posted by on January 23rd, 2011 at 9:12 AM

The Kids Are All Right is a movie about inventive t-shirts, bright countertops and well-behaved children. There’s also a lot of sun and a big white sofa with a flat-screen TV. It’s a surprise how nicely all of this goes down if the actors are good and the story has a little zip. And the story does have a little zip: The owners of the sofa, and the parents of the kids, are two women (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore), a pair of bourgeois lesbians raising sperm-donor children (Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson).

The kids are teenagers now and get in touch with their dad (Mark Ruffalo), who turns out to be a sleepy-eyed, happy-go-lucky, post-hippie huggybear who somehow possesses the get-up-and-go to found and run a vast plantation/restaurant that specializes in organic food and blouse-filling waitresses. This is a very comfortable film. Everyone’s good-looking, no one’s a failure, and we get to see a half-familiar new social departure in the next-to-mildest form it can possibly take. Most of us are all right with the idea of gay parents, but at the same time most of us haven’t seen any gay parents. The movie presents us with Bening and Moore bickering about wine intake, watching guy-on-guy, and giving their kids well-meaning little talks. Even the sitcom Modern Family is tougher, in that the parents are men (straights are more alarmed by gay men than gay women) and the big one has a pronounced queenly bent. Bening’s character has just a hint of the mannish, and Moore’s has none at all. (If you’re curious, the very mildest incarnation of gay parenthood would have been Reese Witherspoon as an accountant and Natalie Portman as a veterinarian, and instead of the gay porn they would have held hands.)

Press notices say the movie makes its point about love, gayness and marriage without trundling the message out in front. But the title couldn’t be more plain. Hey, those kids turned out fine, and it is kind of nice to see movie teenagers busy being themselves instead of problem cases. Where the movie is fresh, it’s in the sight of two teenage boys watching gay porn without making a big deal about how grossed out they are, or a girl kissing a boy who doesn’t know what to make of it all because he isn’t ready for that stuff yet. On the other hand, there’s Julianne Moore’s big speech where she announces that marriage takes a lot of effort, much like Tracy Jordan in 30 Rock (“I know what Kevin and I have looks perfect on the outside, but it’s work, damn it, it’s work!”) but at far, far greater length. In fact, no point in Kids is made subtly. How do we know Moore’s character is feeling neglected? Bening’s character walks out on foreplay to take a call from a patient. How do we know that this neglect causes Moore to get it on with the donor dad? She tells us so.

The Kids Are All Right demonstrates that American indy films can now do the French cinema, but it’s the kind of French cinema where people sit with wine bottles at sunlit tables and laugh like they’re showing the rest of us how it’s done. At least the movie is about behavior and not gags or plot twists, but it’s still lightweight—classy and lightweight as a fine linen tablecloth. Also, Moore’s character fires a Mexican yard worker on a whim, just because she’s feeling guilty about donor dad, and that pisses me off. Bourgeois asshole.

Daily proverb. Still, those kids are nice.

Stan says. Face the furry fury of Koalakkus — in Creatures on the Loose #23!

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3 Responses to “Nice Living Room!”

  1. Jared Gardner says:

    Gawd, reading this (excellent and very funny) review makes me feel like I haven’t seen this movie for the third time.

  2. Jared Gardner says:

    By which I of course meant to say, “I haven’t for the third time chosen not to see this movie.” Or something like that. It sounded much wittier in my head.

  3. Tom Crippen says:

    I think it’s clear enough. You’ve had three chances to see the film, you decided no each time, my review makes you feel like you didn’t say no quite that number of times, and this effect reflects well on my review because you like the review. Okay, I guess that isn’t so clear, but as long as you like the review I’m happy..