Monday, July 12, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right is the 21st Century Scenes from a Marriage, albeit American style. The conceit of the film, “the donor,” functions like Hickey in O’Neill’s Iceman, adding the futuristic element. This is a world where sexuality is labile, and where the complexity of sexual role-playing is rendered more futile and inane the more Cholodenko’s characters attempt to grasp and name it. Early in the movie the gay couple Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) are having sex while watching a male porno flick. It’s an early contradiction, but only a harbinger of the contrarieties that will present themselves later in the film. Ironically, the power of the film is more atavistic, residing in the way the camera captures moments like the one when Annette Bening has her anagnorisis. It’s a wonderful sequence that starts with Bening and Mark Ruffalo singing Joni Mitchell in a moment of faux détente (belied by their disharmony), and ends with Bening’s recognition that she is no longer able to force feed herself and others her wine-soaked vision of family life. It is here that Cholodenko’s debt to Bergman is most obvious. The camera hugs Bening’s face to the point where it creates embarrassment in the viewer. You almost want to turn away as she is numbed by shock and the conversation continues around her—the music of the previous sequence turning to musak. The film is no longer about a gay couple who have decided to raise a family, but about all families. And that’s its power. "Things happen" is a slogan used in Twelve Step programs, and it seems particularly apt here.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great review. I'm pretty excited to see this one. Tomorrow is the day, I think. I'm very curious to see this moment of recognition you describe.


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