Love and parentage 

'Kids' tells an old story in a new context.

'THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT': Annette Bening (clockwise from bottom left), Julianne Moore, John Hutcherson, Mia Wasikowska and Mark Ruffalo star.
  • 'THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT': Annette Bening (clockwise from bottom left), Julianne Moore, John Hutcherson, Mia Wasikowska and Mark Ruffalo star.

The title doesn't lie: "The Kids Are All Right." Okay, they occasionally break a rule and puberty sucks, but they're the most well-adjusted people in this movie, which is a sort of bisexual "Anna Karenina." Perhaps some people still need the assurance that in a movie concerning a pair of lesbian parents, the children will not be casualties.

That's what's nice about it, though — it's completely non-politicized, despite a plot hinged on one of today's hot-button issues. You'd never know that Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), the two moms in question, would be marginalized or nonexistent outside of California, where they live. What's nice, too, is that the family situation we see at the start of the story seems unusually real-life for a movie — the two of them bicker but they're obviously in love, and their dialogue seems cleverly unscripted. Their kids, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (John Hutcherson), are nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to American teen-agers. They're also from the same sperm donor. Everything is just fine until they decide to contact their father (Joni having recently turned 18).

Lesbian parents probably have nightmares about what happens next. The sperm donor is Paul (Mark Ruffalo), roguishly handsome and conveniently still living nearby. The family is reluctant to accept him – Jules doesn't want to suddenly have to "timeshare" her kids – but he is absorbed into their world anyway. He plays basketball with Laser, gives Joni rides on his motorcycle, and, to shake things up even more, allows Jules to initiate an affair with him.

Thus the proverbial tangled web. Halfway through, the movie becomes distressing – something bad has to happen, and since the dynamics of this romantic triangle are a bit different than usual, the ending is upsettingly unpredictable. As you can imagine, Chekhov's gun fires and the situation gets ugly.

All performances deserve a bravo. Bening, especially, playing a high-strung, functioning alcoholic, hauls out the emotion and neuroticism that makes "The Kids Are All Right" more than just a lighthearted family drama. It's a study of infidelity and solidarity, a comedy that underneath churns with the weightiness of Tolstoy, going deeper than the quip about letting gays get married so they can be miserable like the rest of us.

So, the kids are fine, but the parents need to get it together. The lesson is that blood is thicker than water (or, more the case for this movie, wine) – something we already knew, but that these characters get to relearn for the sake of a new type of family.



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