I almost walked out of The Kids Are All Right. It was one of two films at this year’s London Film Festival I actually considered doing that to.
Now, as a film critic, this isn’t something I’d usually confess to start a review off with and it seems like an immediate counter reaction from the huge amount of positive press the film has received but I wanted to kind of set the tone of what I’m going to say.
It wasn’t to say I didn’t go into the film or even the film beginning on an interesting note to get me in. The story revolves around Nic and Jules, played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore respectively, a married lesbian couple with oldest daughter Joni (Alice in Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Journey’s Josh Hutcherson) and they’re living a normal family life or about as normal as you could being a lesbian couple until Laser asks Joni to call the surrogate center to find the father of both of them who turns out to be Paul, played by Mark Ruffalo, owner of an organic restaurant and general, seemingly, sexual machine from how his staff flirt with him constantly. Obviously, this occorance comes to a surprise to Nic and Jules and it wouldn’t be a movie like this without things going wrong and dividing the family leading to the conclusion.
Where the film lost me was the seemingly change of the characters involved from somewhat interesting figures to charactures of certain stereotypes and annoying pop culture anecdotes such as Annette Bening becoming the parent that wants to be sensible but feels everything’s fallen apart and Julianne Moore’s quite annoying mix of unemployed hippie and laid back parent and the kids basically taking different indie teen comedy stereotypes.
It made me not care about the characters as much as wonder what happened to quite an interesting story concept to turn into something that, by the time it came to the end, I didn’t care about it. The side characters, one of them being former America’s Next Top Model contestant Yaya DaCosta, didn’t really do much either to get into their characters outside of, well, being there to add small stuff to the story.
Again, this is not me having anything major against Lisa Cholodenko direction and writing and the intention of both normalizing and humanizing lesbian couples, but the story kind of gets in the way of a concept that was working until all the melodrama hit and characters were doing things the hard way instead of telling others or trying to work out solutions. It neither felt compelling as a drama nor did it interest me how everything was going to get resolved.
It’s a weird situation. I don’t hate this movie to the point I have others nor did anything really stand out that I can say that I liked. California, at some points during the film, does fulfill it being nicknamed the ‘The Golden State’ and helps with most of the shots being done on sunny days but even then that’s not something I’d pick out as a positive or something that should compel you to check out the movie.
I don’t doubt that people will like it and I don’t doubt it’ll be both an Oscar contender and a favorite of people who like this sort of thing and I don’t mind that at all. It just didn’t do anything for me and, at times, got me so annoyed by where it was going and how the characters were reacting. Not something I’d recommend but, at this point, I think I might end up being the only one.
The Kids Are All Right is out in the UK now and out on DVD on November 16 in the US.