Review: The Kids Are All Right

brent johnson’s oscar series features a special post from bill bodkin

The Kids Are All Right has been touted for months as a contender for Best Picture and Best Actress (on two counts). Since early summer, I’ve heard nothing but positive things about this family drama about a lesbian couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) meeting their children’s (Mia Wasikowska and John Hutcherson) sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo).

So with great excitement, I rented this indie darling to see if it could live up the immensely high praise that critics and filmgoers heaped on it.

Sadly, The Kids Are All Right did not live up to the hype, and I believe it was nearly impossible for it to do so.

The film is a classic case of over-hype due to lack of options. It was released during the wretched early Summer 2010 movie season and it was immediately lauded by critics as one of the smartest and funniest comedies of the year. It was reminiscent of unlikely summer indie darlings like Little Miss Sunshine and Napoleon Dynamite. There was a huge love fest between critics and this film — instant Oscar talk arose, making the film the “it” movie to see.

See, all this makes sense — the film was competing with movies like Sex And The City 2, Marmaduke and Jonah Hex for the hearts and wallets of critics and filmgoers. People were dying for something, anything remotely intelligent and interesting. They were stuck in a sea of crappy summer popcorn flicks and poorly made sequels. It was a rough time at the box office. So when Kids hit theaters, people rejoiced.

Flash forward to early January 2011. I’m viewing the film months after its theatrical release, and in the height of a season where studios start putting their Oscar quality films out. I also saw this after the summer and fall made up for lost ground with intelligent and well-made films like Inception, Black Swan and The Social Network.

Don’t get me wrong, Kids is a good film — intelligent, emotional and well-acted. I just didn’t live up to its billing as either a laugh-out-loud comedy or a mind-blowingly amazing film. Yes, the film is set in a non-mainstream family life, little seen on the big screen, but groundbreaking, it’s not.

The film has received its most praise from the acting of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. The two, Bening in particular, have been praised mightily for their performances. They do a terrific job as two polar opposite people, rich, complex and emotional. People are touting that Bening will definitely take the Best Actress Oscar home. Yet, I don’t think either is strong enough to match up with Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan or Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in Winter’s Bone.

To boot, the performance that everyone seems to be overlooking is one that could make a serious run for Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo’s. This is easily his best performance to date. He deftly combines ins signature laid back style with a megaton of emotion. As Bening and Moore’s sperm donor, he is a boy stuck in a man’s body, still a rebellious, alternative dude who, when he discovers he has kids, must man up and decide if he wants to be a father. His character is a lovable rogue — we love him, we hate him, we feel his pain, but we know he deserves it.

There’s been a lot negative in this review, but I say: Go into The Kids Are All Right much like the kids do when they are first going to meet their dad. Don’t put up a lot of expectations in your mind, because you’ll be let down. Instead, go in with an open mind, and I believe you’ll think this movie is just more than all right.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

1 COMMENT

  1. Without any humor in the story, this would be a very sad story about a destructive mix of personalities causing havoc in a family. But the film does have a lot of humor in it.