The Kids are All Right, written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson (2010): Bening was nominated and Moore should have been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this film, a surprisingly jolly trip through an eventful three months in the life of an ‘alternative’ family.
Bening and Moore play a suburban California lesbian couple with two children, the boy 15 and the girl 18 and about to leave for college. The boy becomes curious about the sperm donor — the same man for both children, with Bening being the biological mother of the girl and Moore the boy. His sister gets in contact with him. He’s Mark Ruffalo, playing a sort of hipster Zorba figure with committment issues. Things go swimmingly. Then they don’t.
The movie’s constructed so as to stress the similarities between ‘alternative’ and ‘normal’ couples — Bening and Moore fight and make up, Moore feels underappreciated as the house-mother part of the pair, Bening is a control freak who’s a bit too arrogant about her social class (she’s a doctor) and her work ethic (she’s never home). The other characters in the film have issues of their own, and people are realistically mean and judgmental at the worst possible times.
Ruffalo is groovy but dangerously casual about his interaction with his ‘new family’ — which is to say, he’s a bit of a bull in a china shop, though there’s lots of blame to go around (sketched deftly and touched on in passing is the underlying contempt both Moore and Bening feel for anything resembling the physically labouring ‘class,’ though Moore’s character hides her upper-middle-class prejudice much better than Bening’s Nick.
The whole thing is surprisingly funny, and Wasikowska (Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) gives a nicely modulated performance as a girl who’s starting to chafe at parental controls perhaps a few years later than most teenagers chafe at them. My only real quarrel with the movie is that it doesn’t really have an ending. It just sorta ends. I suppose there’s always room for a sequel. Highly recommended.