Tuesday 2 November 2010

The Kids Are All Right (2010) - Lisa Cholodenko

I think the fact that I was the only one in the cinema watching this proves that this isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea.  Either that, or everyone else has something better to do on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.  Like...work.  But it wasn't particularly to my taste either.

Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore) are a lesbian couple with two kids, Joni (Wasikowska) and Laser (Hutcherson).  When the kids decide to contact their donor father Paul (Ruffalo), things start to go awry and family relationships are strained.  Cholodenko's intention is that the film portrays the normality of a family with same-sex parents.  Kudos for attempting this.  But it just didn't work for me.  Like Joni's friend, everything becomes sexual, to the point that lesbian sexuality becomes so overblown and in your face that it seems totally abnormal.  Moreover, it felt incredibly patronising, which was only emphasised by Jules' speech at the end about marriage being difficult - no shit...  At the same time, the animalistic relationship that develops between Jules and Paul seems to illustrate that naturally every woman needs a penis, which obviously contradicts the central message of the film.  Eventually, sexuality is supposed to dissipate (as Jules' speech suggests), so that the narrative is elevated to metaphor.  However it's impossible to look past such an overblown and patronising representation of sexuality.  And considering everything turns out well in the end, is marriage and having a family really that hard?  Does it even matter?!

Audiences will be divided as to which of the central women they sympathise with.  Me?  Neither.  Continuing from the narrative, the characterisation of Nic and Jules is over the top, almost to the point of caricature.  It just proves how annoying it would be to have two mothers.  The kids are (as the name suggests) alright, if a little dull - Wasikowska especially.  She already proved she couldn't act in Burton's terrible Alice in Wonderland.  She's not even attractive.  Ultimately, I actually felt sorry for Paul who is let into the family and then brutally isolated.  I'm sure this is supposed to symbolise feminism and female empowerment.  But at the risk of sounding totally chauvinistic, that penis mentioned earlier is pretty necessary for your "normal" family.  Look out for plenty of phallic food imagery - bananas and hot dogs as male sustenance anyone?

Despite this, I still felt compelled to watch.  It's just the central message grated on me.  I guess the film is alright...