Saturday, August 28, 2010

Review: The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)

Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right was one of the most talked about films following the 2010 Sydney Film Festival, premiering in Australia on closing night. After a few advanced screenings last week, it officially opens in Australian cinemas today. I feel that it is the most honest and heartwarming comedy/drama of the year and will likely be a serious Oscar contender come March 2011. The Kids are All Right is the story of two modern children, 18 year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and 15 year-old Laser (Josh Hutcherson). They are the children of Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), a happily partnered lesbian couple. They each gave birth to their children using an anonymous sperm donor. When Laser is intrigued about his biological father, he insists that Joni call the sperm office and arrange a meeting with their donor, revealed to be single restaurant-owner Paul (Mark Ruffalo).

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

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