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The Kids Are All Right - Blu-ray Movie Review

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I don’t know director/writer Lisa Cholodenko.  I wouldn’t be able to pick her out in a crowd or a police lineup for that matter.  She’s a perfect stranger to me, but I’ve seen her lauded film and television work.  I get the independent vibe her films put off, complete with their natural lit locale and hip indie rocker chick characters, but, after seeing The Kids Are All Right and hoping this time it would be different, I still don’t get the unflinching and throwaway treatment toward her male characters.  Quirky dialogue and situational comedy might be enough for some people, but what matters in Cholodenko’s reality is what The Kids Are All Right misses the most: equality.

Lesbian couple, Jules (Julianna Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening), are mothers of two children both from the same artificially inseminated sperm donor.  When their daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowski) prepares to leave the house for life at college, her brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) asks her to contact the donor bank so that they might meet their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo).  When Paul, a rather earthy but successful restaurant owner, enters their domestic tranquility, everything is thrown off balance.  The kids are marginally attracted and charmed by his attempts to be the father they never had, but Nic, who might be tipping back the wine bottle a bit too much for her own good, feels threatened by his presence around her children and her controlling ways rise to the surface in her relationship with Jules.  Soon enough, Jules, needing appreciation and a sympathetic touch, finds attraction in Paul’s way of life and presence.  With frank insight and sympathetic anguish into family relationships, what follows in The Kids Are All Right is a serious of fortunate and unfortunate mistakes that, ironically enough, doesn’t concern itself that much with how “the kids” are doing.

Cholodenko is an actor’s director.  She pulls so much intense and real emotion out her leads – including Wasikowski – that the performances become the sole reason to see this movie.  Bening, as the card-carrying member of the Type A personality of the family, is certainly the most complex and the rawest in performance.  Moore is a close second.  Full of a hippy and earth-loving green mentality that comes across as a bit dingy at times, Moore creates a character that, when confronted with the truth from her partner, has the honest of all reactions: she lies.  Yet it is Ruffalo who charms the most.  His portrayal of a single man, suddenly enjoying the idea of being a father, is a welcomed treat.  His continual attempts to be involved in the family dynamic – no matter how painfully awkward – is nothing short of genius.  Likable, honest, and full of insight, Ruffalo immediately earns respect and deserves to be treated in that way.  He is not.  That’s the film’s fatal flaw.

The men, Ruffalo and Hutcherson, are sidelined by coach Cholodenko (who co-wrote the screenplay with Stuart Blumberg) way too soon.  Their stories aren’t finished, and iit becomes appallingly clear that audiences weren’t supposed to care about their characters in the first place.  Ruffalo is run straight into the ground - in a matter of seconds - as the unwelcome villain and Hutcherson, in spite of his standing up for himself in a key scene, is reduced to merely serving as the plot device to bring Paul into the picture which sends the family into emotional disarray.  It is truly disappointing to invest so much interest in characters that seem so real only to see them deflated on-screen, then tossed aside in the film’s final act.  It’s shockingly dismissive from a script that spends FOREVER with its characters and, ultimately, leaves an unsatisfied feeling to wash over its audience.

The Kids Are All Right wants you to believe it’s a pitch-perfect portrayal – beat after beat - of the type of reality its audience shares.  The California locale is real.  The relationship situations are honest.  The sex scenes aren’t glamorized.  The lighting is all natural.  The performances are gritty.  Yet, by disposing its male figures in such an unbelievable and convenient manner, The Kids Are All Right doesn’t completely sell the truth it works so hard to create.

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

3 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 16, 2010
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); BD-Live; Social network features


Commentary Track:

  • Feature-length audio commentary track with writer/director Lisa Cholodenko


  • The Journey to Forming a Family (1080p, 4:35)
  • The Making of The Kids Are Alright (1080p, 3:45)
  • The Writer's Process (1080p, 2:27)

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