Friday, January 28, 2011

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Lisa Choldenko leads us into the well-trodden territory of marriage and parenthood at the crossroads, except that here we have the novelty, played artfully low key, that the couple in question are lesbians, whose son and daughter are half-siblings as each chose to have a child using sperm from the same anonymous donor.

The kids' decision to investigate the identity of their biological father leads to the introduction of Mark Ruffalo's effortlessly cool restauranteur Paul into the delicately-poised family mix, with consequent opportunities for light but affecting comedy and trauma.

Before this intrusion has taken full effect, Choldenko gives us a bedroom scene in which Benning and Moore use gay porn -- male gay porn -- to get off, hinting at one of the points of instability in their relationship. But this gently excellent movie is much more about marriage than it is about sexual preference. Although Benning's Nic could be said to be wearing what are known in those parts as the pants in the relationship, what we have here is an exploration of conjugal friction fed by two very feminine perspectives.

Ruffalo's character could easily have been little more than a plot device, and it is a credit to his performance that his easy-going path to an unlikely victimhood is tinged with real pain. He also brings a bit of masculine balance to one of those films where the gender-slant of the camera becomes a close approximation of narrative voice.

As the poster suggests, at least three of the key scenes take place at mealtimes, where nice bottles of vino tinto figure prominently (as well as the kind of tall glass where one is tempted to seek out the shadows of the film-crew). All the more opportunity then to rue the prevailing table manners of Hollywood thesps who, no matter how formally attired or how much baroque music is poshing up the ambience, typically sit with elbows firmly planted beside their plates as they alternate between prodding and shoveling up their food with indecisively-gripped forks.

Grade: A-

No comments: