The Kids Are All Right

I fought with myself before coming here and telling you what I am thinking about it. I am still not sure if I have lost or won now that I am doing it. This might yet turn into a rant but I will try to remain calm.

So, these are the kids that are (presumably) alright. Joni and Laser (Mia Warsikowka, Josh Hutcherson) (and no, Laser is so not a cool name!) have lesbian moms (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore) and are alright with that, still they (especially Laser) want to meet their biological father and consequently they do. Paul (Mark Ruffalo) seems a nice enough guy, he owns a restaurant and a vegetable garden and a motorbike.

Still, the moms are not happy when they find out that the kids have met the sperm donor and want to meet him for themselves. This results in one of them having an affair with him. Things are being worked out in the end… so, yeah, happy ending… sorta.

I may still be traumatized from the pairing of Moore and Ruffalo in Blindness (which I absolutely hated, it’s on my list of the 10 worst movies ever!) but maybe this movie eventually added a new trauma that just coincidentally starred them, too.

But let me begin with saying that I like Lisa Cholodenko’s movies. High Art is one of my favorite lesbian movies, and I love Laurel Canyon because it is incredibly beautiful and stars Frances McDormand in leather pants (yeah, I know I am easy). So I was willing enough to love The Kids are All Right and in part I do and in part I just hate it.

I start with the part I hate, okay. Sexuality is complicated, is something Moore’s character says when Laser asks his moms why they are watching gay (read: gay male) porn and no doubt it is. It is also fluid and broad and multi-faceted etc. And maybe my definitions here are too narrow, but why (in a movie I would call lesbian themed if not outright lesbian) do I have to watch gay (read: gay male) and straigth sex but am not allowed to watch lesbian sex? It’s not that I am fixated on sex scenes, I don’t especially need them, though I enjoy a good love/sex scene like everybody else. Still, what little there is of sexual action between the two female leads is hidden, it is comicalized, it is disturbingly immature. Jules and Nic were supposed to have been together for about 20 years yet when they try to have sex it looks like they have never done it before… funny or just neurotic?

Another thing I hate is the character of Paul. Man, self-centered, arrogant, disregarding everybody else’s happiness, have I mentioned self-centered… he tries to be cool, he tries to be a little new age, open-minded but he’s just… male. The worst stereotypical male. What I hate most about him is that he thinks he is right to start an affair with Jules. That it is not wrong, that it is actually his right to satisfy her sexually because a) it cannot be called adultery if the pre-existing relationship it same-sex and b) it cannot be called sex when it is between two women and he’s only doing Jules a favor. Gag! I am interpreting here but that’s how this guy feels…

In these respects this portrait of modern family simply sucks. It is affirming the status quo, it serves to the mainstream rather than to the minority it pretends to represent. Again, I wonder if I am thinking too much in labels and should try to see the lesbian as part of an all-encompassing narrative instead of just her own narrative. But then, gay cinema does exist because mainstream was never interested enough in us, or did represent us just in the worst possible stereotypes. And do we really need a lesbian Brokeback Mountain when the same criticism holds true for The Kids Are All Right?

Yeah, I have thought about this a little…

Okay, I promised you some good: the movie is light-hearted (most of the time), it is funny, it is charming, the actors are really good (especially Annette Bening, she’s… brilliant), everything looks very pretty. I laughed a lot – up to a certain point. I mean, you just have to look at Jules’ outfit when she first enters Paul’s garden and you have to wonder if maybe she thought he owned his personal rain forest… There is a lot to enjoy, real emotions, shyness, self-consciousness in the kids, insecurities, jealousies in the adults. It’s really great… if you are straight and don’t have to think about gay stereotypes you will like it… if you are not and you do, well, get angry, argue, criticize, ’cause that’s good, too.

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