It might be unprofessional to admit this, but The Kids Are All Right was so lovely and rapturous that not even once could I concentrate on critical analysis. When this dramatic comedy was over, I saw that I had written down only one note the whole time, and it was just a line of dialogue I wanted to remember. But heck, I won’t need to spout technical information or present theories to just tell you how good this movie is. Directed and co-written by Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right is exquisite in every way.

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play Nic and Jules, a married pair with two teenagers produced from artificial insemination. The kids, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), contact and meet their birth father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). After Paul comes over to meet the folks, his interaction with his new progeny and growing affection for them simultaneously strengthens and endangers the family’s stability.

As a straight male with practically nonexistent dating experience, I cannot comment on whether the movie faithfully represents gender and sexual politics. As a young member of a family, I can certify that there is no phoniness whatsoever in the various character relationships. The siblings love each other, but they can act like a three-year age difference has the same disparity as a generation gap. The adults do their best to humor each other, but they also correct each other’s mistakes when their backs are turned. All of these conflictions are captured through dialogue that is neither too ordinary nor high above the parameters of everyday conversation. I can guarantee that any viewer within a family dynamic will recognize a moment from their own lives in this depiction.

The only complaint I have with the screenplay is that Joni and Laser are a tad underwritten. They are the instigators for the story, yet the focus is transferred from them to the adults. Laser disappears into the background a little bit, and almost too much of Joni's screen time centers on her embarrassment. They do maintain visible presences through the movie, and Joni's ambivalence sets up the drama and emotional impact of the final sequence (one that rivals Toy Story 3 for stirring denouements). Even so, a movie that proclaims the enduring power of family could have worked a little harder to give each person their due.

That last remark was somewhat hard for me to say because the actors playing the three adults are simply irreplaceable. Bening and Moore are a great romantic pair, lovely and heartbreaking throughout all their trials. Ruffalo is touching as a chap whose easygoing manner slowly melts as he becomes a family man. This masterful trio is ably supported by the beautifully fragile Wasikowska and the sensitive Hutcherson. Every principal performance in this movie creates a three-dimensional person that I would gladly like to know.

I’d like to compare watching The Kids Are All Right to meeting interesting new people. You’re having such a good time that you manage to forget the time and everyday concerns for a while. This movie was so engaging that it distracted me from my journalistic obligations. I know my writing would have been more detailed if I saw the movie a second time, but I think that last sentence may be the best possible compliment. Unlike the begrudging chore that reviewing other recent movies has been, seeing The Kids Are All Right felt like an excursion instead of a job.


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