Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Apr 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Mothers Superior

film_kids2Stars shine in fresh, perceptive family comedy ‘Kids Are All Right'
Nic and Jules are a devoted, long-married couple raising their two kids in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Their family has its quirks and issues, but the kids respect their parents, each other, and themselves. That the movie in which they all appear, The Kids Are All Right, is not about the fact that Nic and Jules are a lesbian couple, is just one of the things that make Lisa Cholodenko's family comedy so fresh, fun, and appealing. These kids may have two moms, but this perceptive tale of family dynamics should resonate with anyone who's ever been a parent, a spouse or a child.

Cholodenko is no stranger to unorthodox family units. In her last film, the excellent Laurel Canyon, Frances McDormand played a freewheeling record producer who scandalized her grown son by her affair with a much younger man. In Kids (which she co-scripted with Stuart Blumberg), Cholodenko continues to create wonderful characters rarely seen in mainstream films: strong, responsible women who have made it into middle age with their humor and sexuality unimpaired.

Nic (Annette Bening), a doctor, is the organized, uptight partner, always needling the kids to do their chores and write prompt thank-you notes. Messier, intuitive Jules (Julianne Moore) hasn't quite figured out what to do with her life (her business ventures never pan out), and always cuts the kids some slack. They provide a loving, stable home for college-bound Joni (winsome Mia Wasikowska, from Alice In Wonderland) and 15-year-old Laser (engaging Josh Hutcherson). Each of the moms gave birth to one of the kids using sperm from the same anonymous donor, to make them all as closely related as possible.

Laser has been hanging out with a destructive doofus pal; they experiment with drugs in a home dominated by a loud, macho, roughhousing dad. Now that Joni is 18, Laser asks her to call the clinic and find out who their own biological father is. Reluctant at first ("This could really hurt the Momses' feelings"), Joni agrees because it means so much to her brother. Without telling the moms, they arrange to meet "donor dad" Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who runs a small, trendy restaurant a few neighborhoods away, and is astonished to learn he's sired two grown kids.

Paul is a hit of pure testosterone, a scruffy, bearded, footloose bachelor who gets his hands dirty in his organic garden, rides a motorcycle, and has an ongoing thing with the restaurant's sexy receptionist, Tanya (YaYa DaCosta). But, thanks to the affable Ruffalo, he's not a bad guy, gamely trying to provide whatever the kids need from him. When the moms find out about Paul ("I don't want to time-share our kids," fumes Nic), and enter into a tentative cordiality with him, he does make one spectacularly bad decision (and he's not the only one), which has repercussions in all their lives.

Cholodenko manages a light, gentle, yet achingly real tone throughout. Paul's awkward attempts to offer advice based on life experience are sure to be resented, while Nic suspects he's trying to "steal" her family. The hurtful way teens can turn rebellious and snippy in an instant, the fear of the long-married that their mates no longer find them attractive, the festering resistance of a mild spouse to a controlling alpha partner, the parental melancholy of backing off and letting go, all are limned with wry humor and compassion.

film_The-Kids-Are-All-Right-Movie-PosterNone of these plot threads depend on the couple being gay; each character would go through exactly the same emotions if the central couple were straight. (Which makes the film heroic in the matter-of-fact way it taps into such universal feelings.) But Paul's straight male energy has an even more intrusive impact on this particular family, which Cholodenko uses to sly effect, both comic and dramatic (when Paul realizes where his own presumptions have gotten him).

Bening is absolutely marvelous as Nic, assuaging her rising alarm with red wine and acerbic wisecracks. Moore is disarming as a dizzy earth mother trying to get a grip. They make the most of these complex characters in a film bubbling over with irresistible humanity.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT ★★★1/2 Watch film trailer >>>

With Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson. Written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg. Directed by Lisa Cholodenko. A Focus Features release. Rated R. 107 minutes.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz County 2014

The 2014 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll Come on in, and have a look around. There’s a lot to see—hundreds of winners selected by thousands of GT readers across Santa Cruz County. So if some of this looks familiar, it’s probably because you helped make it happen. But there are always new things to discover, too—you could go to a different winner or runner-up every day in the Food and Drink category alone, and you’d be booked just about until next year’s Best of Santa Cruz County issue comes out.

 

Something Essential Disappears

Lunar and solar eclipses follow one another. Lunar eclipses occur at full moons, and solar eclipses at new moons. Two weeks ago at the full moon we had the blood red moon—a total lunar eclipse (the next one is Oct. 8). On Monday night, April 28 (new moon), as the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a solar eclipse (Sun obscured) occurs. Eclipses signify something irrevocably is changed in our world. The Sun is our essential life force. Monday’s new moon, 9 degrees Taurus, is also an annular solar eclipse when the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun, yet does not cover the Sun completely. The Sun's outer edges, still visible, form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments

 

Palate-Stretching 101

A wine education with Soif’s experts As a veteran of many weekend wine “seminars” at Soif, I have to confess that I’ve never known less (going in) and learned more (coming out) than I did last week at the Spanish Wine Tasting with ace rep Brian Greenwood. These are classy, casual events and it’s hard to imagine having this much flavor fun anywhere for $20.

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 One of my favorite wines is Sauvignon Blanc, and this one made by Martin Ranch is particularly lovely. Bright, crisp and refreshing, it’s perfect to pair with fish and shellfish—and good for picnics as it has an easy screw-cap bottle. There’s nothing worse than setting down your blanket, pulling out your sandwiches—and then realizing you don’t have a corkscrew.

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management