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.