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The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)
Among the cast, all of whom are working at near-peaks, Moore’s performance allows for the most range, and the actress, surely one of our best, takes full advantage of it. Jules, her character, seems to have lived her adult life under the loving thumb of her partner, training her personality to be subservient to any situation that she’s placed in. By turns hilarious, maternal, and tragic, her work here is awards-worthy. Bening is nearly as good, with a scene here, staged at a dinner party, that recalls her memorable onstage salvo at the end of Being Julia. For a few minutes, even though the entire ensemble may be on screen, all eyes are guaranteed to remain on the Bening. Ruffalo, too, is excellent, channeling the same energies that first brought him to audiences’ attention in 2000’s You Can Count On Me. His nervous speech patterns and self-effacing, self-aware facial expressions belong to a middle-aged boy who never grew up. Rounding out the cast are Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson as the brood’s curious kids. They don’t shine as brightly as their older co-stars, but that perhaps is less due to their work here than due to Cholodenko’s focus on their on-screen parents.
wise decision to focus on older characters here pays major dividends as the
film, in its last third, veers into more overtly dramatic territory. As
The Kids Are All Right shifts from
being a gentle lark into something more defined by hurt, the emotional
undercurrents that have been bubbling under all along demand to be addressed.
This turnabout comes less from any contrived crisis than from a shrewd script
that refuses to compromise a message for the sake of a sitcom. Things get slyly
political, as all of Nic’s latent fears begin to manifest themselves. Much of
the criticism that has surrounded the film has suggested that it presents
straight character behaviors under the guise of being progressive, but
Cholodenko's pointed refusal to be all-embracing and all-forgiving comes across
more as a sad and necessary statement of self-sufficiency than as a
depoliticized embrace of "normality".