Love and (Gay) Marriage

07/07/2010 3:00 AM |

The Kids Are All Right
Directed by Lisa Cholodenko

Genuinely touching and persuasively pro-family, The Kids Are All Right offers a remarkably honest and moving depiction of marriage—and it’s a gay marriage! In fact, Kids portrays the ultimate Modern Family, one-upping the ABC sitcom of that name not with its lesbian moms or their teenage kids, but by tossing in the sperm donor, too. Mark Ruffalo, at his hunkiest, plays that previously anonymous jizz-giver, called 18-years-later into the lives of the kids he didn’t even know he had when they seek him out.

Kids is built around easy foils—one kid’s sporty (Josh Hutcherson), the other’s a science whiz (Mia “Alice” Wasikowska); one mom’s uptight (Annette Bening), the other’s easygoing (Julianne Moore)—but none is more conspicuous than Ruffalo, playing the opposite of the family-unit itself: he’s the alluring outsider, the free-loving motorcyclist with a cool record collection who allows each family member to cast off the reins long-held by their controlling matriarch. He’s the conspicuous catalyst that inspires them to live loosely: to ride motorcycles, smoke cigarettes, kiss boys.

But it’s in these liberating excursions that Kids sometimes slips into some uncomfortable typifying: really, psycho-lesbos? Dykes who love dick? Not to worry, though: the superb cast more than compensates for the broad characters by imbuing them with depth, and the script ultimately rejects the questionable hedonism it once seemed to support. We could all stand to loosen up, just not that much. Ruffalo is finally pitched as the Bad Guy—though it’s hard to buy him as such, a testament to the film’s complexity and his acting chops—which suggests instead that the blind pursuance of pleasure only ends in pain. Or, at least, that real pleasure comes from hard work—the kind required to sustain a family. Miraculously, Kids convinces us that the hard work is worth it.

Opens July 9