Let me break it down for you: This film was directed and co-written by Lisa Cholodenko and released in late October of last year. I have been meaning to watch it since then as it was heralded seemingly by all reviewers as a sweet/funny/contemporary/sad/interesting comedy about a 'modern' dysfunctional family. This basically means that Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a gay couple going through mid-life difficulties with themselves and their relationship as their two teenage children search for and find their anonymous sperm doner father, vaguely acted by Mark Ruffalo. Things get loosely awkward when he shows up, they drink wine on a variety of lovely porches while swishing around their apparently ubiquitous leather thong bracelets and talk about eco-friendly organic local fairtrade food.
Every reviewer (including, somehow, Mark Kermode) seems to love this film. I just cannot understand it. I was expecting something cute and quirky with a bit of subversion but ultimately a lovable heart, like Juno or Little Miss Sunshine. Something to make even the staunchest conservative say, 'Well, not all people like that are bad.' Of course it is fine not to be like these, but they are certainly successful and credible examples of 'dysfunctional' families reaching a wide audience without alienating anyone.
It has been credited for bringing a modern lesbian family comedy into the mainstream - and mainstream it certainly is. but just suggesting the normalcy of family variants is not enough when the actors seem bored to be playing their characters that are primarily concerned with swanning around a beautifully unbelievable series of apartments. Where is the back story of each of their lives? Where is their family connection? And where the hell are their human emotions??
The word Wooden does not go far enough to describe the lack of emotion and interaction between these characters. In many ways, I am insulted that the director thinks we will not notice the evident plot flaws in her people. For example: Mark Ruffalo's waster, perpetually adolescent hippy Paul runs his own restaurant. It is of course all organic and seemingly only hires gorgeous hippy girls who evidently have to pay for their modelling careers by waitering on wealthy, guilt-ridden middle America and slipping into the sack with their manager with no emotional repercussions whatsoever. Paul appears never to be stressed out about the running of his busy, successful business. In fact, he has so much time that he can spend hours shopping for pastel-coloured vintage items for his beautiful house, which he then spends many more hours arranging.
Unfortunately he doesn't quite have enough time for the garden. But he's not bothered because, you know, he's such an easy-living, tree-hugging sort-a eco motorbike-riding guy (HYPOCRITICAL CHARACTER FLAW). Luckily this is where Julianne Moore's stay-at-home-but-still-happily-lesbian-mom Jules comes in to have mid-life-crisis-comedy-sex with Paul. She is supported by her long-term doctor partner Nic, has gone through many fads to fill her time and the latest is landscaping. Luckily though, her ability is never called into question as she is too busy having mid-afternoon sexy time with Paul and firing the Hispanic garden help for noticing this, and, inexplicably, for being a drug addict. Why is this stereotype never questioned?? Well, I suppose that's because we know all non-whites in America are good for is cleaning Upper East Side apartments, drug laundering and perving on white lesbians' sudden heterosexual sex romps.
Why, I ask myself, are the sex scenes between them supposed to be so funny? They should be heartbreaking and at most cathartic and guilt-filled.
The answer is quite simple:
In order to make the film palatable for mainstream cinema, it must in no way reflect reality.
The parents in this family are gay and that is enough of a variation on Normality. Anything too hard hitting on top of that is just distasteful. So we skim over the card-board cutouts of these stereotypes, clink our glasses of organic wine and giggle gently at the sight of a buttock. This embodies the philosophy of this entire film.
What the hell is this movie playing at? Why is everybody fooled by this farce? And more importantly: Why are the characters all wearing so many fucking leather bracelets??
Towards what I was hoping would be the end of the film, Annette Bening discovers - of all things! - one of those damn bracelets by Mark Ruffalo's bedside while over for a not-quite-awkwardly-real-enough dinner with the kids (who never seem to speak or think, despite the film's title) and recognises it as one of Julianne Moore's (Although how she can distinguish it from everybody elses' identical wrist-wear is perhaps the film's greatest plot line...). This causes some shit but you just know that it's going to be all right as, after all, they are a lovely wholesome All American family who just happen to be lesbians.
If the goal here was to create a vacuous American light comedy that hints towards profundity in an embarrassed, fair-weather way (AND HAS A LESBIAN TWIST), then The Kids Are All Right, has succeeded. If Lisa Cholodenko wanted to make several fine actors appear to be sleepwalking through 106 minutes of pristine houses, then she has also succeeded. If she wanted to make an accessible, truthful exposition of modern family values and situations, dispel stereotypes, comment on artificial insemination and 'dysfunctional' parenthood, she has failed in the dullest, most fraudulent way possible - by on paper appearing to while paradoxically negating the point for its existence.
And the reviews made me expect so much more.
Has anyone else noticed this??
Watch this trailer. You have watched the film.