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Sunday, February 27, 2011

I mean, why not? (from Katmandu!)


KATHMANDU: The Kids Are All Right is a film about a couple with two children in their teens who love each other, bicker, care for the children and are generally, responsible human beings.

The whammy is that the married couple in question who have been together for 20 years are women. So yes, it’s a lesbian marriage but as handled by Lisa Cholodenko it could be any marriage. Really it doesn’t matter because the people we meet are just so warm and caring.

The Kids Are All Right is up for a deserved Best Picture Oscar and Annette Bening up for Best Actress.

What, you ask? Are there no flies in the marital ointment? Of course, there are. Which marriage doesn’t have its ups and downs?

Says Roger Ebert, “The married couple involves Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening). They’re raising a boy named Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and a girl named Joni (Mia Wasikowska). Each mother gave birth to one of the children, and because the same anonymous sperm donor was used, they’re half-siblings. Home life is casual and happy, upper middle class. Nic is a doctor; Jules is unfocused, thinking she might go into landscape gardening. Like many couples, they’re going through a little mid-life crisis.

That’s nothing compared to what awaits them, in a smart comedy by Cholodenko.

“The imperfect but stable home life of her family is disturbed by the decision of the children to seek out their birth father. Jules and Nic are staunchly liberal and approve of this in theory.

“The father turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the kind of onetime hippie who says things like, ‘Sure, I mean ... sure, yes, of course ... I mean, why not? Sure.’ He runs a cosy little organic restaurant with food from his own organic garden, has never married, has no other children and is way cool. He thinks it’s cool to meet his kids, it’s cool their mums are married, it’s cool they invite him for dinner. I mean ... sure, yes, of course ... I mean, why not? Sure.

“Learning that Jules is taking up landscape design, he hires her to design his garden behind his house in what looks like the Hollywood Hills. And what with bringing in bags of soil and standing in the sun with him discussing plans, Jules and Paul like, have sex. I mean, why not?

“This causes a great deal of unhappiness when it’s discovered, but not operatic grief and passion. More feelings of betrayal on Nic’s part, and confusion from Jules and Paul, who didn’t expect their secret to be discovered and, like, we’re not thinking of getting married or anything, and are really sorry. So are the kids, because they love their mums, and they like Paul a lot, too.

“Cholodenko keeps her tone light. The Kids Are All Right is a comedy and fondly satirical of Nic’s tendency to be quite serious. This is a romantic triangle happening to involve these three people.

“What interests Cholodenko is who they are. Moore and Bening are superb actors here, evoking a marriage of more than 20 years, and all of its shadings and secrets, idealism and compromise. Nic is more of the mind; Jules is more of the heart. The film gives them convincing, intelligent dialogue, mannerisms that fit and children who, having been raised outside homophobic hysteria, are nice and well-adjusted. And with Ruffalo’s Paul, the film creates a slightly exaggerated version of a character like many we may have met: casually progressive, a little unfocused, pleasant and agreeable. I mean, why not?”


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