It’s nice to see a comedy nominated for Best Picture. The Kids Are All Right is the only one on a list of ten nominees this year (Toy Story 3 is really in a category beyond comedy), and it’s a breath of fresh air in a room full of westerns, thrillers, and other dramas.
The film has supposedly been in the making since 2004 when director Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg began outlining the script. It was a tiny project that potentially would have never seen the light of day if Julianne Moore hadn’t been the first one to sign on. It’s a scary movie to take on considering its subject matter, although the subject matter is what makes it compelling enough to be nominated for an Academy Award. Take a look:
What makes people nervous about this movie is that you’re dealing with a functioning lesbian couple, not just experimentation in the teenage years or college, and a sperm donor dad. The movie wishes to present this unconventional family as completely normal like your typical suburban set with a fence and a dog, and that can unsettle people. This film was certainly never destined to do well at the box office, no matter its quality.
It’s interesting that this movie is released at a time when the show Modern Family is doing so well on TV. If there’s one thing Modern Family doesn’t do well, it’s the interaction between the gay couple (which is the most modern thing about the family). Those characters act like roommates from a 1960s sitcom, where this movie breaks open a real couple that happens to be gay and shows you the moments of love and heartbreak that exist in any relationship. The story does not use any tricks or gimmicks. The actors, as well as the writing, treat the couple and family dynamic with realism and respect, and that’s what makes this movie so special.
The acting, too, has gotten a lot of attention, mainly for Annette Bening–who won a Golden Globe for her performance–and somewhat Mark Ruffalo. Personally, I think the other half of this cast is getting robbed of attention. Julianne Moore was so much more compelling and deep as a character in this movie than Bening–the Oscar nomination (and Golden Globe) truly belong to her, but most critics and articles haven’t given her performance more than a passing mention. The kids, too, are unusually powerful young actors, treating their characters with vulnerability and authenticity that is so rare in younger stars these days. I look forward to big things from Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, but you never see them at the award shows and you never hear about them during this film’s promotion–a huge injustice.
The movie is true to itself all the way through, which is perhaps why the end felt a little abrupt to me. Ruffalo’s character is pushed completely out of the picture–there is no declaration of love or obvious lesson learned. It is just life, going on as it does outside the silver screen, and The Kids Are All Right captures life as it set out to do.