He Said: The Kids Are All Right
By Jamie D. Ruccio
August 11, 2010
The world is baffling. Once we reach a certain age, we realize that there are no answers. There have never been answers. Perhaps if the human civilization survives another few thousand years someone will figure out a few answers. But for now...we're stuck in the slog. One of the ways we cope with a life full of questions (and few answers) is to explore it together. First it was done through stories told in person, which was supplanted by plays and literature. Then came radio, then TV and movies. These media are available to us to explore the questions of our condition. Some of American cinema is very topical. The 1960s dealt with social change, the 70s explored the effects of those changes and general sense of despair, and the movies of the 80s were much about the repudiation of the previous two decades.
Since then there has been much incremental social change. One such change is the slow acceptance of homosexuality. One of the current social debates now is the place of a family within homosexuality. Homosexuals, like the rest of humanity, yearn for the same basic satisfaction of emotional needs. There is a need to be loved, to love, to improve one's character through time and experience and then to pass that on to someone else. And yet, it's tough. People are messy and make mistakes that affect other people they love. This is the premise of the wonderfully executed The Kids are All Right.
The Kids are All Right is about Nic and Jules (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), a lesbian couple of 20 years who through artificial insemination have two late teenage children. The children, Joni (named after Joni Mitchell and played by Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (played by Josh Hutcherson) quietly seek out their donor-father, Paul (played by Mark Ruffalo). The introduction of his presence into the family is then catalyst for the conflict in the rest of the movie.
The above synopsis, however, is too superficial and blithe for what actually happens. The Kids are All Right isn't really about what happens to a family headed by a lesbian couple. It is entirely about what happens to a loving, stable family when confronted by difficulty, whatever it may be. There is not a single moment of the movie that feels as though it is proselytizing a particular social view point. It does simply take the position that this family, while constructed around a minority couple, is worthy and valid and attempts to show that like all other families, it faces challenges.