Warning: includes plot spoilers
I went to see The Kids Are All Right today, a movie with an intriguing premise and a good cast, and which has had several good reviews. The basic storyline is that the children of a lesbian couple, Nic and Jules (played by Annette Benning and Julianne Moore), make contact with the sperm donor who is their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo).
While it’s the son, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) who most wants to make contact, daughter Joni (Australian Mia Wasikowska) is surprisingly drawn to Paul and wants to see him again. The movie explores the impact Paul’s arrival has on the relationship of Nic and Jules, on their connection with their children, and also on how discovering he has two teenage children affects Paul. In many of these scenes the characters interact awkwardly, which may be realistic but was also uncomfortable to watch.
At about the halfway point the movie goes off in a surprising direction, with Paul and Jules starting an affair. This takes the film into disappointingly predictable territory, becoming just another film about infidelity. I even contemplated leaving before it finished, but did stay for the entire film.
Quite obviously, I was disappointed in The Kids Are All Right. The plot twist aside, I find Annette Benning a very mannered actor, and much of the dialogue was jarring and unrealistic. The scene in which Nic and Paul finally connect over a shared love of Joni Mitchell, including a spot of spontaneous singing, was just embarrassing. I wouldn’t give it any more than two stars, but in fairness I should point out others have rated the film much more highly: in At the Movies David and Margaret both gave it four stars and felt Benning deserves an Academy Award nomination!