The Kids Are All Right: Not When They Are Named After American Gladiators

16 Jul

There is nothing that can ruin a good movie more than expectations. Hence my lack of post on Inception, just go see the movie and then we can talk. When someone says- Julianne Moore and Annette Bening are playing a midlife lesbian couple who have to deal with their two children wanting to meet their sperm donor (Mark Rufalo) for the first time critics go crazy with Oscar talk.

Then you see the movie.

It’s not a bad film at all. In fact it’s a unique look at the “alternative family” and the kind of struggles you never would have considered growing up in a “normal family.” Beyond that it’s just very well done. Well written, acted and directed. But when someone tells you that you’re going to see a multi-Oscar nomination caliber movie you can fall victim to one of the classic life pitfalls, high expectations. So I’m going to do my tan-less best to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you, if you choose to see it.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a happily married lesbian couple raising two teenagers: Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). Joni after the singer Joni Mitchell, and Laser after the American Gladiator. I can’t confirm the latter, but they reference the former. How a kid named Laser with two Moms has a remotely normal life is above my pay grade. But we’ll leave that for another day.

The successful hippie, college dropout, organic farmer and restaurant owner Paul  (Mark Ruffalo) comes into the picture when Joni and Laser want to meet their sperm donor, aka their biological father. Joni and Laser are actually half brother/sister as Mark was father to both, while Nic and Jules carried one each.It’s initially thoroughly awkward in a hilarious way. But as Paul becomes more involved in Joni and Laser’s life, a series of merry mishaps ensue.

It’s a serious movie with some exceptionally well timed and delivered comedic moments. But it just is a little to predictable to be truly Oscar level, although both Bening and Moore are excellent throughout and most likely will get a nomination. As Jonny Drama says, “You play gay or retarded you get an oscar”. He said it not me. (cough Philadelphia cough cough A Beautiful Mind cough). This is just the way of the world.

Honestly, though it’s the first indie-style, offbeat movie this summer that’s really stirred any legitimate positive responses from the artsy community. The film opened at Sundance to a warm reception, but this kind of film with these kinds of actors is going to do well at prestigious and serious film festivals.  It’s not Juno or 500 Days of Summer, but it certainly explores an area of relationships yet to be tackled and cliched by Hollywood.

Directed by Lisa Cholodenko from the script written by Ms. Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg. WITH: Julianne Moore (Jules), Annette Bening (Nic), Mark Ruffalo (Paul), Mia Wasikowska (Joni), Josh Hutcherson (Laser), Eddie Hassell (Clay) and Yaya DaCosta (Tanya). Produced by Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Celine Rattray, Jordan Horowitz, Daniela Taplin Lundberg and Philippe Hellmann; released by Focus Features. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

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