Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Kids Are All Right So Stop Asking

The Kids Are All Right

As a newlywed the one question I always get is “so how is married life treating you?” To which I usually respond “good so far, just taking it one day at a time.” The latter part of my response always seems to evoke a peculiar look from the person who initially asked the question. I guess they expect me to be wearing the same rose colour glasses that many wear just after the “big day”. Yet that has never been my style, I have always taken a more realistic approach to relationships. I am fully aware that relationships take a lot to maintain and it only gets harder as the years go by.

It is this understanding that makes Lisa Cholodenko’s film, The Kids Are All Right, flow so well. Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have been in a committed relationship for 18 years. Living with their two teenage children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) Laser (Josh Hutcherson), the couple appear to have the perfect life. The cracks in their relationships only begin to surface when their kids decide to seek out their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). The presence of Paul comes as a huge shock to Nic and Jules, and forces them to re-evaluate the dynamics of their relationship.

The Kids Are All Right examines how easily people fall into particular roles in relationships. These roles often become a prison of sorts as they inadvertently serve as the thing that defines them most in their relationships. Nic has always been the assertive one in the union. She is the bread winner who strives for excellence. These traits have been passed down to Joni, who Nic gave birth to. Jules on the other hand is the free spirit who never follows through with things. Her passions are often fleeting which makes it hard to for Nic to truly get behind Jules’ latest plan to start a landscaping business.

In many ways, Paul represents the sides of Nic and Jules that they have lost during their lengthy relationship. Paul has managed to turn his lack of formal education into a successful restaurant business, while still maintaining that passion for the finer things in life. In Paul’s case this includes music, wine and women. This is why Nic and Jules find themselves in such a tailspin around Paul. Jules sees everything she fell in love with about Nic in Paul. Paul also serves as a reminder to Nic of what her life was before everything became so serious.

Although there are several levels at play, Cholodenko’s film is able to express them all well through her wonderfully written script. While Bening, Moore, and Ruffalo will receive praise for their great performances, and rightfully so, it is the screenplay that makes this film a must-see in my opinion. Similar to her work in both High Art and Laural Canyon, Lisa Cholodenko has a way with words that is not appreciated the way it should be. There is rarely a moment where the plot or the situation feels forced. There are many moments in The Kids Are All Right where you can identify with the elements of their relationships. The excellent script coupled with the great performances allows The Kids Are All Right to standout above other recent films that have tried to show just how complicated relationships really are.


  1. Nice writeup. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the fact that Cholodenko's writing is so underratated in a good way, that the screenplay is often unfairly forgotten. Pity, it's one of the best of the year.

  2. @Andrew - I am hoping the screenplay will get some love on the award circuit in the coming months. Cholodenko's writing always seems to get overshadowed by the strong female perfomances in her films.


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