Some Thoughts on “The Kids Are All Right”

Since I said that I would have some thoughts on the movie The Kids Are All Right, I’ve decided to take a break from drawing to give you those thoughts.

The aforementioned film is about Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), two married women that have raised Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), both of whom were conceived by artificial insemination. Joni is 18, ready to go off to college and Laser convinces her to try to find their sperm donor, a restaurant owner and chef named Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Although at first hesitant, she calls the sperm bank and the two kids meet Paul, which then leads to him having dinner with the entire family. (He accepts the invitation by saying, “I love lesbians!”) His entrance into the family life causes chaos and problems for everyone. Although Nic and Jules relationship has been strained at the start of the film, the presence of their sperm donor only makes this shakier.

The wonderful thing about Lisa Cholodenko’s film, which she co-wrote with Stuart Blumberg, is that it presents the relationship of Nic and Jules and their family in a manner that does not make the film into a political piece. The two experience problems could easily happen in a heterosexual relationship. Yes, two of the central characters are lesbians, which does facilitate the key plot point of the sperm donor entering their lives. Never do we see the Nic and Jules suffer harassment from being in a same-sex relationship, nor do Joni and Laser get bullied for having two moms. If anything, Cholodenko’s film presents an idealized world, which prevents other topics from getting in the way of telling the key story in this film.

The film also presents sexuality as being fluid during a conversation between the two moms and their son. (This is the part where you have to skip over a paragraph if you haven’t seen the film because of a SPOILER ALERT.) This presentation causes the affair that Jules begins with Paul to feel less uncomfortable. Cholodenko and her partner have had a child, so the chances of her suggesting that “Oh, women can’t resist a hunky guy” is probably not the point. Paul is the opposite of Nic. While Nic is the leader of the family and the stereotypical controlling and worrying lesbian, Paul is a laid back person who is there and she already has a connection with. This is something that could happen in a heterosexual relationship as well.

There is also a discussion that occurs between Nic and Jules after a confrontation about the affair where Nic asks, “So, are you straight now?” For me, this reminded me of 1). the typical belief that you’re either straight or gay, you can’t be bisexual that is even believed by members of the LGBT community and 2). of a Dykes to Watch Out For strip where one of the characters, Sparrow, has been dating a man. Another character asks her if she’s straight, to which she says she isn’t. The conversation goes on between the prior characters and a third character, where Sparrow discusses her confusion and how the others aren’t helping. (In a later strip, she refers to herself as a bisexual lesbian.) Yes, I realize that I just summarized almost an entire Dykes to Watch Out For comic, but it is relevant to this. That very exchange gives the idealistic world of the film some realism; the chances that someone might say that to their partner is very likely because of their distress and because of the stigma of bisexuality. (Spoiler alert ends)

The Kids Are All Right is overall a refreshing film on many levels. It features gay characters without pushing a political agenda, it is a natural comedy that doesn’t rely on forced humor, and portrays lesbians in a way that is seldom seen in mainstream American media. The entire cast—notably Bening, Moore, and Ruffalo—give terrific performances that show the emotional depth and vulnerability of the characters. It left me feeling happy in a way that a film hasn’t done in years because it has substance. That Cholodenko has managed to create a comedy that manages to be so successful in telling a story is terrific.

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4 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on “The Kids Are All Right”

  1. I just watched the film. I agree with you. This move had me so conflicted. I’m glad high-profile actors did a queer film, but I hate that a woman had to cheat on her girlfriend with a man. When is the last time a gay man is portrayed as cheating on his male partner with a woman?

    Anyway, I think that there was a great opportunity to discuss sexual fluidity/bisexuality/queer identity in a broader way. Some folks write that since the movie showed that these lesbians watch gay man porn (which sure, some do), sexual fluidity was discussed… Really? SMH.

  2. Maria,

    I found the discussion of sexual fluidity was brief, but occurred when Nic and Jules ask Laser about whether or not he’s gay because he then asks them why they watch gay man porn. Again, it was brief, but I found that to be where that occurred rather than them watching the porn.

    And I can’t think of any movie that has portrayed a gay man cheating on his boyfriend or partner with a woman. It is a good question and point.

  3. Hi all,

    I have heard similar arguments and frustrations about Jules cheating on Nic with Paul rather than another female character. I, too, felt a little twinge, but overall completely understood why. Sexuality is carnal and raw. After years of marriage (and not to mention, seemingly annoying domination by Nic), there was a void — a hole that needed to be filled for Jules’ character. I think that is something a great deal of couples struggle with, and very few are able to work things out before someone cheats.

    Part of me walked out of the theatre feeling icky, not because Jules cheated with a guy, but because the audience laughed ever-so nonchalantly during the cheating scenes. This partially made me a little uneasy, as Hollywood continues to make cheating not that big a deal. …or maybe that’s just me.

    In all, it was refreshing to see a queer film so beautifully portrayed by two very respected and fabulous (and hot ::cough, cough::) female actors.

  4. Kim, I at least perceived the audience laughing at how the scenes were shot, which actually came across as awkward to me. Regardless, they were shot in such a way that it minimized the consequences of cheating.

    And I honestly can’t think of any performance that the two lead actresses gave that were as good as the ones given in this film.

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