18 December 2010

The Kids Are Alright

**** (4.5 stars)

I love Lisa Cholodenko's style of writing and directing. It sounds like how real people talk to one another and looks like real life. That is not to say it's boring in any way, it isn't, only to say she is a truly talented director. “High Art” and “Laurel Canon” are two fantastic, and very different, films. Why is it that female directors only seem to make one movie every 5-10 years but Ben Stiller keeps cranking out the crap? Get on it ladies!

“The Kids Are All Right” (nominated for multiple Golden Globe, Spirit, and SAG awards) tells the story of a married couple Nic and Jules (Annette Beining and Julianne Moore) during the last summer before their daughter goes off to college. Now that she’s 18, Joanie (Mia Wasikowska, “Alice in Wonderland”) can finally petition to find out who is the donor daddy to her and her half brother Laser. Said daddy turns out to be beatnik-y Paul (Mark Ruffalo) who personifies our ideas about Los Angeles. He owns an all local restaurant and farms his own organic produce. He rides a motorcycle and likes fine wine. He’s a stud. The ménage-a-trois that results between the adults is at times heartbreaking and funny.

Cholodenko recognizes the differences in this family ("Joanie has two mommies"), but keeps it focused on the bigger picture of family as opposed to making it cliché. Nic is a bit overbearing and seems to love her wine more than she does her partner at times. Jules is the free spirit, kept at home to raise the kids, she starts and stops businesses with the whimsy most of us pick out an outfit. Together they are ying and yang, and that’s why it works. Feeling alone and frustrated with the everyday familiarity that comes with a long-term relationship, Jules steps outside the marriage in an attempt to save it.

The big surprise for me here was the kids. Wasikowska didn't impress me much in "Alice in Wonderland", but she has that perfect 70s vibe that's all the rage these days. Even under all the long hair she wears as a mask over her face, her pixie like innocence is staggering. She’s happy with what is and doesn’t want to rock the boat. Her brother, on the other hand, is at the age when a male figure would be welcome and he pushes his sister to explore their more true identity. Hutcherson looks so familiar to me but I realized I've never really seen any of his films (“Zathura”, “Bridge over Terabitha”). It's mostly kiddie stuff. In this film, he gets to grow up and find his voice. The look of excitement on his face on the way to meet their donor, the deep seeded pain when he realizes his family is falling apart; are signs of burgeoning genius. I hope he sticks with the more adult fare.

In her now traditional style, the film doesn’t so much end as she simply stops filming. We don’t know what happened before the movie started, so why should we know what happens in the end? This is a family still growing, still learning, still recovering. It is a wonderful movie and still my pick for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes.

[side note: Attention ladies with an unhealthy addiction to "America's Next Top Model". (Of course you're only watching it to make fun of Tyra. We believe you. You may recognize the hostess at Paul's restaurant as YaYa from cycle 3, the snobby runner-up. Well, we get to see a whole lot of her in this movie. FYI.]

[side side note: Have you seen the trailer for the latest remake of "Jane Eyre"? It looks fantastic. I loved the Zefirelli film with Charlotte Gainsbourg, but the book made me want to kill myself. I'm holding out hope for Wasikowska now that I know she can act. Throw in Michael Fassbender and I'm sold!]

No comments:

Post a Comment