I just got back from the highly acclaimed The Kids Are All Right, a film about two lesbians (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), their two kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) and the effect meeting the kids' sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) has on the family. The film was, I believe, supposed to be a light, bittersweet romp through the ups and downs of today's modern family. All I felt by the end of the movie, however, was an immense hatred towards everything in this film. How could so much potential be squandered in something as cheap, cloying and unpolished as The Kids Are All Right ends up becoming? I blame most of the films major woes on the script, which has a lot of interesting ideas but doesn't develop them as much as I would have liked to have seen. A lot of the time, I couldn't tell if director Lisa Cholodenko was purposely leaving relationships and key ideas vague to challenge us to fill in the blanks or if they were simply left out for whatever reason. First of all, the family didn't feel at all cohesive. The film explains that Nic (Bening) gave birth to Joni (Wasikowska) while Jules (Moore) birthed Laser (Hutcherson) a couple years later and, for the most part, that bond between mother and child is heavily prevalent. So much so that the film gives no indication about the relationship between the mother and the child that they didn't birth. They all seem to live in this vacuum where this issue isn't addressed or even thought about, yet something is lacking between Nic/Laser and Julies/Joni. Cholodenko takes great pains in staging the actors during the opening dinner scene so that Nic/Joni and Jules/Laser are shown together in the same shots, so it's not as if she's oblivious that this dynamic exists.
With the introduction of Paul into the picture, the holes only grow larger and more intolerable. One of the biggest that sticks out is the relationship between Joni and Paul. Joni initially has no interest in meeting Paul and only makes contact with him to appease the curious Laser. After she meets him, however, she becomes smitten and announces that she wants to continue seeing him. What she sees in him, we never know, for all that follows are scenes between them where she gazes adoringly at him while he talks about vegetables. There is a hint that she may be sexually attracted to him, as she becomes increasingly uncomfortable with her "slutty" (I use that in quotes because I talk like her every day and I don't think she was that horrible) friend's comments about how she'd like to fuck him. But, as with a lot of the film, that possibility is never explored. Another angle that didn't feel fully developed was the dynamic between Nic and Paul. There's a major plot development that forever strains their relationship, but before that, Nic is not exactly his biggest fan. Part of that can be explained by the fact she feels like everyone in the family has turned against her and towards him, but there's another issue that is never fully explained. Paul and Jules, with their "la-di-da" attitudes toward life and work, are incredibly similar, more similar than anyone in the film is willing to admit. Does Nic see this, and is rejecting Paul her way of expressing her dissatisfaction with her relationship with Jules? This is all conjecture, but I'm grasping at straws as to what the film is aiming to say with this relationship.
The film's major turning point, an affair which suddenly erupts between Paul and Jules, is also the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of my reaction towards the film. First of all, the tone of these scenes is completely wrong and, to an extent, even grossly offensive. The Kids Are All Right is supposed to be about the love in this cohesive family unit, so why are the sex scenes between Moore and Ruffalo full of slapstick moments trying to make the audience laugh? Sure, these moments are funny, but you feel dirty afterward because all you can think about is that fact that she is fucking CHEATING on her spouse while being funny. This is not an appropriate moment for levity, especially since Nic has done nothing worthy of being cheated on. And speaking of offensive, why does Jules have to have an affair with a man when she has clearly been established as a lesbian throughout the movie? I understand that there's some psychological motivation that goes beyond sexuality, but having her cheat on her spouse with a man plays into the stereotype that a lesbian is a lesbian simply because she hasn't found the right man. Maybe the awkward slapstick was meant to imply that they weren't exactly having the best time together or that something was off about them, but I'll be damned if it didn't sound like they were having the time of their life.
The Kids Are All Right is not a terrible movie by any means--I'd rather watch it than StarStruck ever again, that's for sure--but there are simply too many flaws to blindly ignore. Another edit of the script to tighten plot holes and make the dialogue sound less forced and on-the-nose would have made this film a pleasure to sit through instead of one where I was gritting my teeth through numerous, infuriatingly clumsy mistakes. C