I couldn’t make a recent screening of The Kids Are All Right but my trusty contributor, Eric Edwards, was kind enough to cover it for me.—PCN
Director Lisa Cholodenko, working from a script she co-wrote with Stuart Blumberg, poses the question of what really makes a parent a parent in her latest film, The Kids Are All Right (opening July 9). What’s most shocking about it is how it became a theatrical film rather than a Lifetime movie of the week.
Teenage siblings Laser and Joni (Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska) decide to contact the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) used to impregnate their lesbian parents, Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, respectively). As expected, this causes a few problems between the happy couple, even making one of them briefly question her sexuality when she finds herself falling for the handsome lothario responsible for her children’s existence. These plot points aren’t exactly groundbreaking but they are handled with care and sensitivity by Cholodenko and the actors she brought together for this film.
And yet, as the end credits spooled, I wondered why I felt let down by a film with so much promise in its title, premise and cast. One of the characters behaves in a completely implausible and baffling way. And I took offense at the blatant rip-off of a scene from Love Actually in which Emma Thompson’s character has a heartbreaking moment while a Joni Mitchell song plays in the background. There’s plenty of Oscar-worthy acting delivered by Bening, Moore, Ruffalo and Wasikowska, but the ending is anticlimactic and flat, making this film just all right instead of great.
At the screening I attended, Cholodenko, Moore, Ruffalo, Hutcherson, and Wasikowska showed up to do Q & A. Some information gleaned:
- Ruffalo jokingly wishes he had discovered sperm donation back when he was a struggling actor. Felt he wasted a real talent.
- He tracked down Cholodenko after seeing her film, High Art, and said he wanted to work with her. When she came to him with Kids, he wasn’t available and another actor was cast. Ruffalo thought the other guy probably would have done a much better job. Fortuitously, that actor later fell out when Ruffalo was available.
- He has completed directing his first film, Sympathy for Delicious, starring Laura Linney and Noah Emmerich, and is waiting for a distributor.
- Co-writer Stuart Blumberg has been a sperm donor.
- When asked what the younger actors might’ve learned from the more experienced ones, Moore said with a laugh that Hutcherson and Wasikowska learned how to keep their lines on their hands.
- Cholodenko doesn’t see herself as a gay director. She simply wanted to tell a good story with meaning and didn’t want to be political or traffic in stereotypes.