Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nog and The Kids Are All Right

As an acting showcase for Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right is pretty excellent. Bening's Nic recalls, in some ways, her turn as Caroline Burnham in American Beauty. Both women possess a controlling nature that masks a deep insecurity, in this case Nic's fear of the dissolution of her family unit. Daughter Joni is headed to college. Younger son Lazer is drifting aimlessly. And wife Jules (Julianne Moore) seems restless, a more carefree spirit who's found herself bogged down in a domestic life she may have never exactly envisioned. These women's personalities are firmly established with a few deft strokes early on before Mark Ruffalo's Paul, the ladies' sperm donor, enters the picture due to the kids' sleuthing. Complications, naturally, ensue. Kids is a somewhat busy film, maybe a little too busy for my taste. A generally sharp screenplay insures that the characters feel real, but we don't always get to relax and observe them when they are not in the midst of various histrionics. One exception, however (and the one which is likely to be seen again on Oscar night) is a dinner-table scene near the end of the film which assembles the entire cast and during which Bening's Nic experiences a painful, but silent, revelation, accompanied by a devastating close-up of her face and a few quiet, tense, moments that take us right inside her head. It's a powerful scene, but undercut a little by unsubtle scenes such as Jules' late-film speech about the difficulties of marriage, which is nicely acted (of course it is, it's Julianne Moore!) but seems unecessary, as it doesn't really tell us anything that the film hasn't already illustrated many times. Overall, a strong film and a worthy addition to the list of rare modern films that don't shy away from serious explorations of family. But, to me, it doesn't resonate like, say, American Beauty or The Ice Storm.


  1. Richard, I just saw this at Liberty. Having trouble composing my own review, so I came to read yours. Bravo! I think I could mostly just parrot what you've said. You should do this professionally. Yeah, is there anything Julianne Moore can't do? Your illustration is perfect. I would add that I found Mia Wasikowska to be EXTRAORDINARY. The best of the cast, in my opinion (although that's not to rob the leads of their well earned praise). The actors are great, but the film, finally, seems a bit of a lightweight, and here's why: the whole film centers around one huge contrivance, and then gives us another (I won't spoil it here). I suppose this is okay, because we DO get that great scene with Bening at the dinner-table. But still. Oh, and I didn't like the guitars on the soundtrack. And did you notice that the fucking mic kept dropping into the frame? And not just once. Not even twice. AT LEAST three times, I think it was more. . . Yeah. An interesting film with fine performances, but it's no ICE STORM.

  2. Yeah, why did I not really mention "the kids?" The girl is very good. I've heard others mention the mics (in fact, there's a big debate on IMDB about whether this is true of all prints or the fault of certain theaters/projectionists...I don't understand such technical discussions...but I didn't see the mics at the multiplex).