Dare I admit to thinking that the 2010 best picture nominee The Kids Are All Right is overrated?
The Kids Are All Right tells the story of Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), married lesbians in Los Angeles. The pragmatic Nic is an obstetrician while the more flighty Jules has a landscaping business. They also have two children, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and Joni (Mia Wasikowska). When Laser and Joni decide to track down their anonymous sperm donor father, the trail leads to Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who owns an organic restaurant. (Of course, he does…) After Paul meets Nic and Jules, he eventually ends up having an affair with Jules, which threatens the family’s stability.
It’s been five years since the film first came out and, as a result, I think it’s easy to forgot what a big deal The Kids Are All Right was back in 2010. It got a lot of attention for being both a film about a lesbian couple and a box office success. To a certain extent, every LGBT-themed film to come out since owes a debt of gratitude to The Kids Are All Right for proving that audiences are willing to see films with LGBT characters. As well, the film’s box office success was an early sign of the growing support for the legalization of gay marriage. The Kids Are All Right can make a very valid claim to being a landmark film.
But, once you look past the film’s historic importance, it doesn’t hold up as well as you might hope. The performers are all good, especially Annette Bening. The film’s script also has a lot of good lines. However, it also has a lot of lines that feel just a little bit too glib and obvious. It’s not surprising that HBO considered turning The Kids Are All Right into a TV series because the entire movie really does feel like an above average episode of an hourly drama. Lisa Cholodenko’s visually flat direction also feels more appropriate for television than for the big screen.
As much as I hate to admit it, I’d probably be more into The Kids Are All Right if the characters were a little less wealthy. If you can look past the fact that this is a movie about a happy lesbian marriage being threatened by a clueless straight guy, you discover that The Kids Are All Right is essentially just another movie about rich white people with problems.
I guess my problem with The Kids Are All Right can be summed up by the scene where Jules fires her Mexican gardener because she suspects that he’s seen her with Paul. The scene is largely played for laughs and, after the gardener has lost his job, he’s never seen again. At one point, Jules does say that she feels guilty for firing him but again, the scene is played for laughs. The film asks us to laugh with the rich white characters and to laugh at the one non-rich non-white.
The Kids Are All Right is a historically important film but that’s not necessarily the same thing as being a great film.