out of Five
Running time: 106
Hugely entertaining, frequently funny and genuinely moving, this is a sharply written comedy-drama with refreshingly original characters and terrific performances from all five leads.
What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as Nic and Jules, a California lesbian couple who've been together for more than 20 years and have had a child each - 18-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and 15-year-old Laser (Josh Hutcherson) – with the help of an anonymous sperm donor.
When Joni turns 18, Laser persuades her to track down their biological father via their mothers' sperm bank.
Their father turns out to be laid-back restaurant-owner and organic farmer Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who's pleasantly unfazed to be suddenly confronted with two teenage children. And as Paul gets to know the rest of his new family, his presence in their lives leads to unexpected consequences.
Bening and Moore make a thoroughly convincing couple, portraying a strong central relationship that is obviously loving but also has recognisable problems (e.g. breadwinner Nic's frustration over Jules'
consistent underachievement) and it's entirely possible that both actresses could end up with Oscar nominations when awards season kicks off. Ruffalo is equally good, his scruffy charm generating strong chemistry with each of his co-stars, while there's strong support from Hutcherson and Wasikowska, whose own unique brother-sister relationship (“That could really hurt moms's feelings”) is utterly charming.
The superb script crackles with great dialogue and there are several hilarious lines. Cholodenko's direction is extremely impressive too – this may be an unconventional family on the surface, but this is far from a gimmick-led film and the interactions between each character are both sharply observed and believably detailed, so that you strongly feel their connections to each other.
Cholodenko's control of the material is assured, most notably in a central scene that moves comfortably from light comedy to a bordering-on-cheese feelgood moment (there is singing involved) to awkward tension and finally to heart-in-mouth suspense and powerful emotion. On top of all this there's a terrific soundtrack and cinematographer Igor Jadue-Lillo makes the most of the bright California sunshine and scenery.
Original, funny and genuinely moving, this is a hugely entertaining comedy-drama with a delightful script and terrific performances from all five leads. Highly recommended.
The Kids Are All Right (15)