Delightful might not be the adjective a filmmaker wishes their film to be identified with, especially if it happens to be a comedy drama with highbrow aspirations. And yet, I cannot think of a better way of describing Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, a film in which everything is so seemingly effortless that you feel guilty for enjoying it so much.
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, two of Hollywood’s most appealing performers, play a Californian couple whose comfortable suburban life is only threatened by their eldest child’s (Mia Wasikowska) imminent departure for college and the weariness and boredom their marriage seems to be leading to at times.
Things get spicier when their youngest child Laser (Josh Hutcherson) convinces his sister Joni, who has just come of age, to look for their biological father, a happy-go-lucky bio restaurant owner (Mark Ruffalo) who back in the nineties got some extra cash as sperm donor.
One of the virtues of the film is to deliberately put aside the (still real) political strife about gay marriage and to present Bening and Moore’s relationship as a fact in the inner logic of the picture and, more importantly, as a social normality.
Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg move smoothly in the difficult territory between comedy and drama. The film is seriously funny at times, hilariously poignant at others. The characters, all flawed and not fully sympathetic, are brought to life by a peerless cast.
Annette Bening has been hailed by many as the frontrunner for this year’s Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the controlling, wine-addict mother, but Moore and Ruffalo are equally memorable and get the best comic lines, while Mia Wasikowska threatens to steal the show every scene she’s in. Against all odds, this is the film she will be remembered for this year, and not Tim Burton’s disastrous Alice in Wonderland.
The Kids Are All Right premiered in Sundance and was commercially released in the US during the summer, so it might have lost some of the buzz by now. However, this is too fine a picture not to get considerable Academy attention.
Here are my 2011 Oscar Predictions for Cholodenko’s witty vision of the modern family:
Best Picture (very likely)
Best Actress: Annette Bening (lock)
Best Actress: Julianne Moore (she might go supporting, although she gets top billing in the final credits) (likely)
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo (very likely)
Best Supporting Actress: Mia Wasikowska (long shot, nobody is predicting it, but she is terrific, so a critics’ award is all she needs to be back in the race)
Best Original Screenplay: Cholodenko and Stuart (lock)