Friday, December 3, 2010


This flick has been getting a lot of attention in terms of Oscar predictions—it's already garnered the most nominations for the independent film world's Spirit Award (not like real "independents"—meaning truly low budget movies—since the Spirit Award qualification is budgets of under 20 million)—and it's easy to see why.

The subject matter is a little "alternative"—domestic troubles in a marriage between two women and their two children, one from each with the help of the same donor sperm. As you probably already know, the drama in the classic story line is fueled by the sperm donor showing up when the oldest child, the daughter, is asked by her younger brother when she turns 18 to contact their biological "father."

There are a few quibbles I could make with some of the plot points, and it's hard for this male viewer to see the male lead, Mark Ruffalo, being more attracted to Julianne Moore's character than the character played by the stunning  Yaya DaCosta (she photo below). But I never found Moore that attractive. On the other hand, I don't find Ruffalo attractive either, which made it seem all the more ludicrous that he would even be lucky enough to have the DaCosta character in his life.

But aside from the question of believability for me in a few instances, I still bought the story and its resolution because the actors, whether I'm attracted to them or not, are so incredibly good. And since everyone in the film gives a five star performance, I have to attribute it to the director and co-writer (with Stuart Blumberg) Lisa Cholodenko.

They say that directing is ninety-nine percent casting, and though I didn't buy some of the sexual attractions in the film, in terms of acting skills that is definitely the case here. And it seems to me Annete Bening is way overdue for an Oscar (as far as I can tell she's only been nominated but never won, though I thought she should have for AMERICAN BEAUTY, for instance).

She too is an actress I don't find personally attractive as so many others seem to, but I've always dug her acting chops. She's like Katherine Hepburn or Vanessa Redgrave, it seems to me, in that she never gives a weak performance, is always at the top of her game. In THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT she is equally matched by Julianne Moore's performance, which following her tour de force act in last year's A SINGLE MAN, seems to me she also deserves some kind of award, though since they share pretty much equal screen time they'd be competing in the "Best Actress" category.

And the young actress who plays the daughter "Joni" (Mia Wasikowska) deserves a supporting actress nomination herself. As well as the actor playing her younger brother, Josh Hutcherson, who pulls off an amazing, powerfully understated performance with so much nuance to it he was constantly surprising me with his actor's choices (or Cholodensko's direction, probably a mix of the two).

At any rate, I wouldn't miss this movie. No matter what you end up thinking about it, you'll experience some movie acting and directing at its best.

[PS: After thinking about this film for a day or so, it strikes me in retrospect that the male characters weren't treated so well, a bit of revenge of the women kind of subplot going on, sometimes justified sometimes not. That doesn't change anything I wrote above, just an observation I should have made.]


Anonymous said...

Haven't seen this...have you seen CITY won audience award at Sundance last year....worth a look.

Lally said...

Yeah, I heard good things about CITY ISLAND, I'll check it out. Hopefully I'll get a copy for awards consideration, as I did THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT.