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Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Kids Are All Right, Very All Right

The Kids Are All Right: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars

Laser: Why did you donate sperm
Paul: It just seemed a lot more fun than donating blood.
A well balanced comedy/drama about an unconventional family, dealing with the arrival of another member of the family who is related in another unconventional way. The lightness of the tone, mixed with the overall themes involving family and the bonds of marriage, as well as some strong and sharp comedic moments give the dramatic elements of this film an effective weight. Strong performances from the lead characters also aid the film quite well.

The film stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as Nic and Jules, a happily married couple. Nic is a busy, working physician, who likes her wine; while Jules is a little more of a free spirit. They have two kids of their own. These children are Joni and Laser, played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, 18 and 15 years old. The two kids were conceived of by each mother, using the sperm donation of the same man.

This man is Paul, played by Mark Ruffalo, who the children have an interest in meeting. They manage to get in contact with him, and he is soon entered into the lives of this family. Paul is a kind of laid back, alternative, scruffy, cool guy - and he rides a motorcycle. This of course doesn't impress the moms much at first, although Joni kinda likes this newish "dad" guy. As Paul becomes more involved and a distance starts to form between Nic and Jules, a new entanglement that may complicate things, seems to emerge.
Julie: Go easy on the wine.
Nic: OK, well go easy on the macro-managing.
This film does a great job at balancing these relationships. It hardly tries to exploit the fact that the main relationship is a gay one, but it instead respects the characters. Bening and Moore have a strong chemistry both in the way they love each other and fight with each other, which suggests a real relationship. The way the kids each exhibit traits relating to their respective moms is also quite well handled, and made more interesting as we see more of Paul. The way Paul factors in is of course important as well, and Ruffalo has a knack for pushing the right kind of scruffy but successful, cool drifter-type character that is needed.

As far as these performances go, both Rufalo and Moore are solid, as they should be. These two have acted together before and have a natural comfort in their scenes together. Ruffalo does a good job of essentially representing a sort of ideal for Moore's character, while lending his own qualities. Moore is quite good at balancing a lot of comedic elements with the drama parts surrounding the marriage. Really, it is Bening that I found to be the strongest. Her character is written as controlling and frankly - mean, but the way she delivers her lines and plays out the beats required of her is very effective throughout. This could have been played much more shrew-like, but instead, Bening is sharp, funny, and damned ice cold all at the same time.

As far as the kids go, they are all rig...good. After being somewhat of a bore for me in Alice in Wonderland, Wasikowska, delivers a fine performance as a young adult, ready to head out to college, with a desire to learn more as she heads into adult life. Hutcherson, who I've come to see be quite good for a young actor, does well enough here, even if his character is given the least amount of material to work with.

The film, as a whole, is made well enough. It's paced nicely, with the aforementioned light tone. The score by Coen Brother regular Carter Burwell does a good job at mixing in with the alternative beats scattered throughout. The writing is truly a big part of why this film succeeds. Its witty, funny, and true to each character. By the time the film finds its resolution, everything certainly feels earned, and done without betraying the feel of the film.

Overall, a solid and entertaining family dramedy.
Paul: To an unconventional family.

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