The Kids Are All Right
Directed by Lisa Cholodenko
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 107 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: November 16, 2010
Review Date: November 10, 2010
A domestic comedy-drama with more humor and heart than most films of its type being made today, Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right is a mature and comically sober look at parenting in the 21st century. It features wonderful performances from both adults and teens and some interesting variations on the hoary unfaithful spouse scenario that is typical for movies about couples who after years together begin to get restless as they traverse farther into middle age.
Lesbians Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have raised two children from birth, both conceived from an anonymous sperm donation which they later learn was furnished by Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Bound-for-college Joni (Mia Wasikowska) at the urging of her younger teen brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) learned the donor’s identity and contacts him. Meeting his two hitherto unknown offspring, he’s charmed by them, and once the children admit to their mothers what they did, Paul is introduced to them as well. Nic, a doctor, is the more dominant and controlling of the two parents while Jules is more easy-going and still trying to find her niche in the world. Paul, an organic farmer and restaurateur, offers Jules a job landscaping his back terrace, and their mutual interest in their children and the sparks that fly between them lead Jules to make some unwise decisions that will possibly affect her relationships with both her wife and her children.
Director Lisa Cholodenko co-wrote the screenplay with Stuart Blumberg, and it captures so beautifully both the restless teenaged world of unsure attractions and their ongoing curiosity about human relationships along with the more mature but equally perplexing mysteries of sexual attraction and familial bonding. The stakes seem very high indeed as these five people begin interactions among themselves which redefine what each thinks about himself and the others, and as we see it play out, one wants to shout at every misstep, at every wrong turn, a sure sign that the movie is working on firmly attaching these appealing characters into our own psyches. Director Cholodenko hasn’t fashioned any standout cinematic moments; the film has been directed with an eye toward the mundane (though the family by some standards is anything but), but the characters are so engaging that one doesn’t really care, and by the time we get to the film’s end, we’re wiping tears away along with the characters without a rainbows-and-roses happy ending but with something approaching real life where messiness continues but will be dealt with. What a refreshing point of view for an American dramedy!
Annette Bening takes on the film’s most dislikable part, the serious and sometimes sour Nic and makes her someone we eventually care about, recognizing her controlling issues and superiority as a coping mechanism against a judgmental society. Julianne Moore’s more loopy Jules is yin to Bening’s yang, a more free spirited mom who’s still trying to find herself. Mark Ruffalo’s interloper couldn’t be more offhandedly charming and appealing, little wonder the kids are so drawn to him bounding into their lives at crucial points in their teenaged development (Joni feeling as a college-bound adult and Laser on the cusp of either embracing delinquency or rejecting it). Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson are both enormously likable actors thinking their way through their various teenaged angst while Joaquin Garrido has a couple of funny scenes as Jules’ handyman assistant Luis.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is reproduced faithfully in a transfer that’s anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Sharpness is usually quite wonderful, and flesh tones are natural and very appealing. There’s more detail here than one might imagine from a standard definition transfer, only an occasional shot being a trifle soft or featuring a slightly less saturated color scheme. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix keeps Craig Wedren’s music score and a selection of pop and soft rock tunes as the main inhabitants of the surround channels. Otherwise, ambient sound effects are subtle in the soundstage and don’t draw attention to themselves. Dialogue, which is the film’s most important aspect, is placed in the center channel and is easily discernible.
The audio commentary is provided by director/co-writer Lisa Cholodenko. It’s not a gripping track of comments about the actors, her co-writer, and the production itself, but she keeps a steady stream of talk going which fans of the film will want to hear. With the bonus features severely lacking in production details, this is the best place to find out about the making of the movie.
“The Journey to Forming a Family” is a 4 ½-minute featurette featuring director Lisa Cholodenko, stars Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and co-writer Stuart Blumberg discussing why making the film meant so much to them. It’s in anamorphic widescreen.
“The Making of The Kids Are All Right” is a very brief EPK vignette featuring the director and stars basically repeating what was said in the earlier featurette. This one runs only 3 ¼ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
“The Writers’ Process” is an even briefer overview of what it was like for Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko to work together on the project. There are vague hints of compromises and disputes, but no details at all are given. The anamorphic widescreen clip runs 2 ½ minutes.
There are trailers for Somewhere, Charlie St. Cloud, and Despicable Me.
4/5 (not an average)
The Kids Are All Right is more than all right; it’s a funny and involving dramedy featuring a handful of characters viewers will enjoy getting to know. While the bonus feature package is really lacking here for such a smart movie, it still comes with a solid recommendation.