The Kids Are All Right

Hollywood doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to films about gays. The contrived and unconvincing Brokeback Mountain was considered a breakthrough. Now we have another contrived and unconvincing film, The Kids Are All Right, which has also been a subject of critical praise.

Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) are a lesbian couple who have each had a child from an anonymous sperm donor. Their children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), are now teenagers. When Joni turns eighteen, Laser persuades her to get in contact with their biological father. He turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a charming and somewhat raffish character. Joni and Laser take an immediate liking to him. Through them he eventually meets Jules and Nic. Jules has just started a landscaping business, and Paul hires her to work on his yard. They begin to have an affair. Obviously this is a situation fraught with all sorts of possiblities, but the film veers into melodrama when Nic finds out about their relationship. In the film’s climatic scene, Nic righteously tells Paul that he is an “interloper” in their family – a silly thing to say, since it was her family that first approached Paul.

So, this film ends up being a cautionary tale about the need to defend the lesbian nuclear family against home-wreaking sperm donors. In attempting to depict a lesbian family, the film reverts to a tired Hollywood formula.

Another thing that bothered me about this film is that in one scene Jules fires an employee whom she suspects of knowing about her affair with Paul. She later justifies this by claiming that he was a drug addict. The film treats this sleazy behavior as a minor character flaw. This only makes the film’s melodrama even more distasteful.

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