Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review: The Kids Are Alright

I haven't posted here in awhile (my common refrain) and I actually meant to post this last Thursday, but with everything I have been doing I am just getting around to it now. Last week, I won tickets for two from The Chicago Sun-Times to see The Kids Are Alright at Landmark Theater. Kathy and I went together, along with other ticket-winners, the day before its opening. The movie didn't exceed expectation, but since my expectations were high, that's a good thing. Spoilers to follow, so if you don't want to know, read no further.

The movie is about a lesbian couple, Jules and Nic (played by Julianne Moore and Annette Benning respectively) raising two children. When, during the summer before their eldest child, Joni goes off to college, she and her brother, Laser decide to find their sperm donor daddy, their lives are sent into a tailspin. Paul, their so-called "bio-dad," is an organic farmer and restaurant owner played by Mark Ruffalo. For Joni, he's "cooler" than expected and she wants to get to know him better. For Laser, Paul manages to open his eyes to the bad influence his stoner friend is on him. These are the good things about Paul's influence on the family's lives. Then, when Jules, who is trying to start a landscaping business (one of a slew of found and then abandoned interests for the former architecture major), gets an offer from Paul to do the landscaping at his home - and their increased amount of time together drives them into each other's arms. Their affair, of course, is found out when the family dines at Paul's home and Nic finds Jules' hair in his shower and on his bed.

While I understand why the response to yet another lesbian story in which the lesbian has an affair with a man, (I groaned in despair a bit myself when I realized where it was headed) I do feel that this movie handled it well and quite differently. Even the sex scenes between Jules and Paul seem mechanical, void of actual romantic chemistry.  And while the affair has a deep effect on Nic and Jules' marriage, it acts only as a wake-up call - a shaking up of their world - and does not tear them apart but, in fact, makes them stronger. I admit that I got a little choked up at Julianne Moore's (incredibly memorable) "marriage is hard" speech.

In the end, I felt like The Kids Are Alright was about a realistic family, not without their problems, but who love each other very much. Flaws, mistakes and all. I cannot recommend this movie enough.

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