Review: The Kids Are All Right (2010)

People have a tendency to see their own flaws in others. Feelings and attitudes we don’t always understand consistently motivate our actions and as hard as we try to support our “rational” self-image, let’s face it, men and women are creatures of passion. Freud had a lot of theories surrounding this sort of thing: transference, projection, ego, id, whatever. Most of us though, we just accept that that’s the way people are. Without question, these are the kind of fundamental insights about human nature that make Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right a superbly realistic portrayal of the modern family.

As such, the film’s greatest strength is its true-to-life approach. The audience emerges in a world of fully realized characters, making life decisions and mistakes. They never once act contrary to how we would expect a real person to act; even though we may desperately want them to. This believability is the result of three things: a great script, incredible performances and a skill-full, subtle director. Cholodenko shows a lot about her characters through the little moments. Because of this, the film engages the audience and characters without weighing down the plot.

More specifically, The Kids Are All Right follows two teenagers and their lesbian moms as they struggle to find a place in an already unique family for the children’s sperm-donor, Mark Ruffalo — bachelor, restaurant owner and master of the shit-eating grin. Ultimately though, family is what this movie’s about.

Unfortunately, during the second act this focus gets slightly forgotten as the children disappear from the screen for some time. The score was another annoyance; it drew attention to itself during sentimental moments, creating an air of melodrama that didn’t vibe with the film’s overall tone. Luckily, music from other sources was more successfully implemented, exemplified by the stellar opening sequence accompaniment from Vampire Weekend. Nevertheless, these minor gripes do little to hold back a film so full of life.

Poignant and funny, The Kids Are All Right gives its audience a lot to think about: growing up, sex and sexuality, love and family. Since its début at Sundance, the indie-buzz for this one’s been strong. If that continues, it should — and deservedly so –garner attention come awards season; specifically, for its script and supporting actress, Julianne Moore. However, the best reason to see this movie is, well, because it’ll make you feel good. And not in a cheap way.

Rating: a solid 8/10

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