“THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT”

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Charming and funny, with enough chemistry between the two leads to make this comedy-drama the envy of practically every other movie currently in release, “The Kids Are All Right” is more than all right…  it’s one of the best films you will see this year.
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Annette Bening and Julianne Moore star as Nic and Jules, a lesbian couple in a long-term relationship raising two teens in sunny California.  The girl is Nic’s, and the boy is Jules’; they gave birth to both with the help of the same sperm donor. Things are sailing along beautifully — the two ladies get along so well with their kids that they might as well write a book on parenting — until eighteen-year-old Joni, with her brother’s approval, decides to get in touch with their biological father, and find out who he is.
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They meet him.  Pretty soon, he introduces himself to the Moms, hires Jules to do some work for him (Nic, the breadwinner, is a doctor, and Jules is a landscaper), and — almost before anyone knows what’s happening — he is as much a part of the kids’ lives as their parents are, and, even worse, begins to awaken in the frustrated Jules a heterosexual lust she didn’t even know she had.  By the movie’s final act, a love triangle has developed — Jules, Nic, and Paul — and the question becomes: will the family survive this crisis… or will Jules and Nic, kids in tow, go their separate ways?
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in a scene from "The Kids Are All Right".

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Bening is marvelous, treating us to as fully-realized and lived-in a performance as she has ever given.  With her short, spiky hair, squared-off, no-nonsense specs, crinkly eyes and easy smile, she lights up every scene she’s in.  In this totally glamor-free role, every line on her face and furrow on her brow is right there for the whole world to see, but it suits the part perfectly (she is a bit of a worry-wart, after all).

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Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson as Joni and Laser.

As Jules, the homemaking half of the relationship whom Nic has to coax, basically, into her landscaping gig, Moore — with her oversized tee-shirts and flowing red hair — gives Bening a run for her money, and then some.  And both of them are simply delightful in their scenes with their kids, ably played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, who are as real, as believable, as movie kids get these days.  The chemistry amongall of them is first-rate; these are people, you find yourself thinking, that you wouldn’t mind inviting to dinner.

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But there would be no story, of course — no conflict — without Paul, the restaurant-owning sperm donor, and in the role of the interloper, the catalyst, Mark Ruffalo is at his tousle-haired, smiling, effortlessly charming best.  It’s easy to see why almost everyone in the family is (at least at first) so attracted to him; he’s simply a NICE GUY.  He hangs with Laser, the son (even giving him some fatherly advice about who he should and should not choose as friends); he gives Joni rides on his motorcycle (much to the consternation of the disapproving Nic, who thinks motorcycles are dangerous); and, of course, he beds — and then admits he has fallen for — Jules, but not as a rake, or a scoundrel; he seems to have as much of a need for her as she has for him.  Until the final third of the film, Paul may be very much the outsider, but he’s so damn ingratiating that it’s no mystery why they welcomed him so eagerly into their home (with the exception of Nic, of course, who senses trouble from the start, warms up to him a bit, but then — to the unhappiness of all concerned — is unfortunately proven right).
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“The Kids Are All Right” is up for a number of Oscars this season, including for Best Picture.  The Academy made a good choice here.  It is as funny, and as sad, as any film out there, and, on a list that includes some Best Picture hopefuls that can’t hold a candle to it, it ranks right up there near the top.
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Don’t miss it.

FILM REVIEW by Stuart R. Brynien