Not to be confused with the Who’s rockumentary of the same name, The Kids Are All Right is a new heartfelt comedic drama by Lisa Cholodenko, writer/director of indie hits High Art and Laurel Canyon.
The film centers on Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening), a lovingly dysfunctional couple who have been together for 20-something years. They are the adoring, solicitous moms of Joni (Alice in Wonderland’s stunning Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), both of whom are dealing with the awkwardness of being 18 and 15, respectively. Having just legally entered the adult world, Joni is able to access the records of the sperm donor both moms used for artificial insemination in the early ’90s. And it turns out the mystery man is Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an organic restaurateur with a slight sleaze factor (and the exposed chest hair to prove it). Joni and Laser decide to bring Paul into their family life, despite reservations from their moms, and drama ensues when some relatives take to “our donor” more than others. But it is Jules and Nic’s relationship that is the most dynamic and gripping of the story, nudging the audience to think about commitment and forgiveness, parenting and family in different ways. The characters sometimes come close to slipping into stereotypical holes, but just before they trip and fall, Cholodenko and her co-writer, Stuart Blumberg, write them out of harm’s way.
It is great to finally see lesbian motherhood normalized in the setting of a family dramatic comedy, even if the actresses playing the part are hetero Hollywood megastars. With characters who are able to laugh at the locavore hipsterdom from which they are written, this film is a great story for our time.