Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Video review: "The Kids Are All Right"

Here's a well-drawn movie about two lesbians raising a pair of teenagers, but it's not a "gay" film.

By that, I mean that the homosexuality of Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) is not the central motif of director/co-writer Lisa Cholodenko's comedy/drama, "The Kids Are All Right." It's a story about a family, a non-traditional one to be sure, but the challenges they face are similar to those experienced by the folks in a Norman Rockwell portrait.

The main dynamic is about how Nic and Jules discover fissures in their relationship, even though they've been together 20-odd years and have raised two great kids, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). The catalyst for this discover is the arrival of Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a leather-jacketed free spirit who provided the anonymous donor sperm for the children.

Joni tracks down Paul, who gets a kick out of the idea of being somebody's dad. He's a bohemian type who emotionally is a renter, not a buyer -- he just visits in other people's lives.

Jules finds herself drawn to him, setting up a showdown that threatens to split the entire family apart.

Sneakily smart, "Kids" gently pokes fun at a whole slew of social mores and character flaws. At first, the uptight Nic is the main target, but eventually we learn that none of these people are without blemishes.

Extra features, which are the same for DVD and Blu-ray versions, are decent without impressing.

Three featurette are rather disappointing in their brevity, falling more into the realm of Web-friendly video teasers than true glimpses behind the production.

One is about how Cholodenko came to work with co-writer Stuart Blumberg, which clocks in at just over two minutes. The big takeaway there is that Blumberg himself was a sperm donor back in college.

A making-of doc runs three minutes, and another about casting the film is just over four minutes long.

The real centerpiece is a feature-length commentary track by Cholodenko. It's moderately insightful, though I'm of the firm opinion that tag-teaming two or more people makes for livelier banter.

Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 2.5 stars

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