Joni is bright and talented and has just been accepted into college, while Laser has drifted in with the wrong crowd causing Nic and Jules to worry about his priorities. They meet Paul and are immediately charmed by his charisma and easy-going persona. Paul also expresses genuine interest in them and their futures. To the concern of their mothers, they begin to spend a lot of time with him. The peaceful family dynamic Nic and Jules have established begins to break down immediately. Nic is stressed about her work and her role as the primary financial contributor, while Jules, who has just opened a business as a landscape architect, begins to work for Paul. As a result Nic loses touch with both Jules and her children, who are now absorbed into Paul's life, and begins to drink heavily. The familial breakdown is heartbreaking, and while Paul is essentially at fault, it remains hard to dislike such a stand-up guy.
The script is beautifully crafted, the characters actually feel human and the up-and-down central relationship between Nic and Jules is brutally honest. All the performances are outstanding, especially Annette Bening (who should receive an Oscar nomination). Juliane Moore and Mia Wasikowska are also fantastic. Mark Ruffalo, long one of my favorite actors, is brilliant again, and I haven't seen a better support performance this year either, so expect a nomination for Mr Ruffalo too. It is a complex and heartbreaking family drama that touches on the most honest elements of humanity and modern family ties. Lisa Cholodenko has drawn some fantastic performances out of her cast transforming them into regular people we feel like we know. The subtle characteristics and mannerisms of each character is really recognized, and i think you will find it hard to be void of a connection to at least one of the characters. The dialogue exchanges are pitch-perfect and the awkward sequences throughout are often quite hilarious. This is one of the best films of the year. I really can't say enough. A must see!
My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars