Los Angeles goes all-out new age in Lisa Cholodenko’s queer comedy-drama The Kids Are All Right. Starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as lesbian couple Nic and Jules, the film explores their family life with teen kids Joni (as in Joni Mitchell, Mia Wasikowska fresh from Wonderland), a whip-smart yet uptight scientist like Nic, and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) the “sensitive jock”. Laser asks Joni to find their biological father Paul (Mark Ruffalo) and a relationship between the organic farmer-cum-restauranteur and his new-found children quickly develops, shifting the family dynamics.
Ruffalo plays to type well without appearing two-dimensional, all the while encouraging real growth of character without the touchy-feely nonsense at home. While their language often detracts from the message, The Kids are All Right is a well-written drama and deferential take on gay relationships. Bening’s controlling streak and unwillingness to connect with Paul pushes her to the outer boundaries of the family, making her a hard-faced villain for much of the picture. Meanwhile Moore reels it in as the insecure Jules, whose missteps and atonement echo throughout the tone of the film.
Though it is by no means groundbreaking, the colourful photography and personalities combined with excellent performances lend it a fresh, authentic feel.
The Kids Are All Right is released in UK cinemas on Friday 29 October.