The Kids Are All Right

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 16, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

I'll be honest and say upfront, I am not a fan of The Kids are All Right. Take away my gay card, but the lesbian Brokeback Mountain it isn't. I know hopes were high to have a cross-over hit featuring a lesbian-helmed family on display for America to see, but the lackluster box-office proved to disappoint. And while many critics gush over the storyline and performances, I fall on the other side of the fence.

Starring Academy Award nominees Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a lesbian couple (Nic and Jules) raising two teenage kids that they mothered through a sperm donor, the film sets out to show that families come in all shapes and sizes. Point well made. It vies to show that gay couples face the same problems and do the same insane yet heartfelt things that straight couples do. Another point well made. But my problem is in the false notes sprinkled throughout that made the whole exercise feel forced.

First of all, once the teenagers Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson ) contact their sperm donor dad Paul (Mark Ruffalo doing his slacker thing), the secret makes Laser act a bit distantly. And because he spends all his time with a buddy named Clay, his moms immediately think he's gay and go about trying to get him to open up about it. Seriously? In my opinion, after seventeen years a lesbian couple would be able to figure out if their kid was gay or not. And would a gay kid really have that much of a problem coming out to his lesbian moms? A small quibble, maybe, but it made me not buy much of the movie because of it.

The biggest travesty in my book, however, is the need to put Jules in a situation where she - - SPOILER ALERT - - ends up sleeping (repeatedly) with Paul. Granted, the relationship between her and Nic was going through its issues and I realize this can cause affairs to occur, but as one of my friends said (who has two moms), "there is no way my lesbian mom would ever let a guy [expletive] her." When the moment comes for her to explain why she slept with him, it's so vague that it doesn't ring true.

For me, it's moments like this that just reiterate to closed-minded people who don't understand homosexuality that we can change or swing whichever way we want to on a whim. I'm not saying this situation might never occur, but when we're fighting for equality during a volatile time in the gay rights movement, this isn't the best example of a gay relationship we could put on screen. Co-writer/Director Lisa Cholodenko doesn't owe anything to the community, for sure, but the whole affair with a man thing felt like one big studio note to make sure straight people would see the movie. And to me, it was insulting.

Take away my gay card, but the lesbian Brokeback Mountain it wasn't.

Don't get me wrong, there are moments in the film that I liked and I think the performances by Wasikowska, Hutcherson, and Bening are great. But as an entirely believable slice-of-life, I wasn't buying it.

Special features include three very short featurettes that don't add much to the film, and a Feature commentary by Cholodenko that is kind of a snooze.

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The Kids Are Alright

Available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.