I kind of promised that I’d write a review of the movie “The Kids Are All Right” on Twitter last week and though I don’t quite have the time to really write a polished, well thought out post about the film, let me quickly tell you why after watching the film and thinking about it for a few days, I have come to nearly loathe that movie.

I have one really simple problem with the movie: Other than the twist that the couple is a lesbian couple and their kids search out their sperm donor father, the film is nothing more than a boring melodrama about an upper middle class family. I don’t feel like any other new ground is broken. It could just as easily been a film with a regular couple whose adoptive kids find their biological father. I suppose that is the point it is trying to make: homosexual couples and their families are just like traditional families. And perhaps people need to see that. I don’t, I already know that, so the whole main point of the film is a retread to me.

What could’ve saved the movie for me was to have interesting, sympathetic characters that I would be interested in watching a basic melodrama about. And though I fear saying this will make some of you think of me as nothing but a woman hating masochist….the only character that I thought was likable, interesting or worth rooting for was Mark Ruffalo’s character (Paul) – the single, laid back, enjoying life, restaurateur sperm donor that their kids search out and bring into their lives.

Other than that, I thought that Julianne Moore’s character (Jules) was a big ball of boredom and psychobabble, Annette Benning’s character (Nic) a sad stereotype of an educated, career achieving doctor and the kids are just typical teenagers that aren’t interesting or remarkable in any way. I feel like the only reason we are supposed to like this family is because they are non-traditional and have been a reasonably successful family up to this point.

The only other characters I had any interest in otherwise were the Mexican gardener that gets fired and chewed out by Jules and the girl from the restaurant that Paul hooks up with early in the movie.

And what happens to the only character that I care about in any way shape or form? He learns the most, he changes the most and he loses the most. He loses the carefree innocence that he lived with, he loses the kids that he has come to care about despite just meeting them, he loses the woman that he becomes infatuated with, he loses…period. None of the other drama-seeking/creating characters lose anything. In fact they all grow by tearing down a guy that just agreed to meet his biological children when they randomly called him out of the blue.

At one point Nic screams at Paul “get your own family!” And though I think the film wants us to be like “Yeah! Get your own family!” All I wanted to scream at the screen was “your family chose him!”

Hell, even the gardener loses his job and the girl from the restaurant loses Paul to maturity all at the expense of this family’s supposed struggles and eventual growth.

I also don’t understand the message that the sexuality in this film is trying to convey. It starts with the sex scene between Nic and Julianne Moore’s character (Jules) in which they watch gay male porn and continues with Jules quick jump in the sack with Paul. Gays and lesbians are always trying to convince people that their lifestyle isn’t a choice and yet this lesbian couple watches dick to get off and Jules is lured from her longtime partner by just a hot guy and the “need to be appreciated”. And it simply dismisses these problems of sexuality by saying “sexuality is complicated” or “marriage is hard”.

While I acknowledge sexuality is complicated - I don’t believe that it is as cut-and-dry as heterosexuals only like people of the opposite sex and homosexuals only like people of the same sex – and that marriage is hard, I don’t think this movie does any kind of service to gay families in showing how unable to cope with the first signs of adversity that this comfortable upper middle class family has had.

I suppose the whole upper middle class drama is what I really object to in the long run with this movie. This just isn’t a genre of film that I enjoy. I hate movies about boring people feeling bored, alienated and looking for conflict and that’s exactly what this movie is.

Also, expectations complicated my enjoyment. I thought it was supposed to be more lighthearted, funny and heartwarming than it was. It wasn’t at all subtle, I never found it to be funny and because I didn’t care about anybody in the family, the resolution wasn’t heartwarming in the least bit for me.


marty mankins said...

Well written review. I can see why you didn't like the film for the reasons you outlined. Most of the general plot lines have been told in countless other movies over the years.

The reason I liked the film a lot was what you wrote in your last paragraph. It was a lighthearted, funny story that had some complicated dealings, all of it surrounding the kids search for their sperm donor. Feelings of love, trust, mistrust, confusion and miscommunication all hit the right accord for me.

I saw the film at Sundance a year ago and it worked on most levels for me. My only real beef about the movie was there seemed to be too much popular culture thrown into the plot. They could have toned it down a bit. At times, it seemed like the focus took away from the real story. But obviously not too much, otherwise I wouldn't have liked it as much as I do.