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The Kids Are All Right(2010)
Two teenaged children conceived by artificial insemination get the notion to seek out their birth father and introduce him into the family life that their two mothers have built for them. Once the donor is found, the household will never be the same, as family ties are defined, re-defined, and then re-re-defined.
For more about The Kids Are All Right and the The Kids Are All Right Blu-ray release, see the The Kids Are All Right Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on November 17, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, Yaya DaCosta
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
» See full cast & crew
The Kids Are All Right Blu-ray Review
Better than just “all right.”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 17, 2010
With the legality of gay marriage in a state of constant flux, lesbian auteur Lisa Cholodenko's latest film, The Kids Are All Right—which centers around Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as a committed middle-aged couple trying to raise their teenaged children—could've easily been a politicized polemic, a "message" movie. It's not. The film is about a gay marriage, but it's not about gay marriage. It's about marriage, period, regardless of sexual preference, and it carries no agenda. To even call it a gay film is categorically restrictive; The Kids Are All Right is a human movie, a "dramedy" that's sharply written, brilliantly performed, and most of all, psychologically perceptive. Few recent films have so accurately captured the highs and lows of marriage and the often-trying complexities of post-modern family dynamics. That this one happens to involve a lesbian couple is, if not coincidence, certainly meant to be no big deal. Cholodenko has made a film that seems to exist in a world where the battle for gay rights has already been won, where distinctions in sexuality exist but don't necessarily matter. (Or, at least, aren't the source of virulent, picket- toting, slogan-shouting hatemongering.) The only message here is that marriage is tough—for everyone—but also eminently rewarding.
Moore and Bening play Jules and Nic, a hip couple trudging through a rough patch in their relationship. Nic, a physician, clearly enjoys being the principle breadwinner; she's a bit of a control freak and compensates by hitting the wine bottle a little too hard. Jules, for most of their time together, has been career-less, the stay-at-home mom—although, now, she's trying to get a landscaping business off the ground—and her subconscious resentments about having her dreams perpetually denied are only now bubbling to the surface. You might say they're having a collective mid-life crisis, combined with imminent empty nest syndrome and a bout of overbearing parenthood.
Their willowy daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska)—named after Joni Mitchell, of course—is about to leave for college, and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), their 15-year-old son, who's not nearly as focused as his name would imply, has been hanging out lately with the neighborhood Jackass, a wannabe Johnny Knoxville and bad influence. Both kids were conceived with anonymously donated sperm and, understandably, they're curious about their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a scruffy, commitment-phobic organic farmer/restaurateur who casually sows his seed—so to speak —with his sexy female employees and seems unlikely to ever settle down. But sometimes the heart doesn't know what it wants. When Joni and Laser arrange a meeting with Paul, unbeknownst to their moms, they have no idea it'll be a catalyst for an explosion of suppressed desires, moldering grudges, and all manner of familial drama.
Paul handles the stress of being a put-on-the-spot father figure well, and one of the film's greatest subtleties is the way his character—a vaguely Peter Pan-ish rogue who dropped out of college because he's more of "a doer"—is slowly changed by his relationship with his newfound kids. Like any man approaching middle age, he starts thinking about his legacy. Up until this point, he's lived for the moment, for himself, but now, faced with his progeny—and, by extension, his own mortality—he begins to reevaluate what's important. He really wants to have a place in the kids' lives, and they think he's pretty cool too. You get a sense that the virginal Joni has a slight dad-crush on Paul—who pays attention to her in a way her mothers do not—and Laser, despite some initial awkwardness, is inquisitive about his dad's past, as if trying to suss out what kind of blood courses through his own veins.
But, as is often the case with adopted or in-vitro children trying to connect with a biological parent, it's a case of too much too soon, not so much for the kids—who are, after all, all right—but for Nic and Jules. Nic, the control freak, is concerned that Paul's sudden intrusion will disrupt the family dynamic, and it does, but not for the reasons she expects. When Paul and Jules start spending lots of time together after he hires her to landscape his backyard—I know, that sounds like an innuendo, but really, it isn't—it seems inevitable that they end up in bed. "Great," some lesbians might say, "the gay woman is wooed to the 'straight side' by the handsome, curly-haired hunk," but this is missing the point. Jules isn't turning straight, or even necessarily bisexual. She's just lonely and underappreciated, not quite vulnerable—she's not necessarily weak—but definitely looking for a way to temporary feel better about herself.
If this sounds like a recipe for gushy, suburban middle-class melodrama—the stuff of a Lifetime made-for-TV movie—it's thankfully not. Working off a script she co-wrote with Stuart Blumberg, Cholodenko keeps the film loose, striking a keen balance between unsentimental emotional honesty and comedy that, if not laugh-out-loud funny, is at least wryly clever in its observations. The characters are impeccably drawn, from Nic's casual alcoholism and unexpected hatred of all things eco-friendly and green—"If I hear one more person say they love heirloom tomatoes, I'm going to f----ing kill myself"—to the anxious verbosity with which Jules fills in gaps in conversation because, as she tells Paul, "Sometimes I mistake silence for criticism."
It goes without saying that the cast—and what a cast!—is sublime. Ruffalo stays well within his established screen type—the sensitive rake, boyish and manly in equal measure—but he's so likeable and transparent that it doesn't matter. Mia Wasikowska is a doe-eyed doll, sheltered but ready to experience the world, and Josh Hutcherson is all squirmy teenaged insecurity, his embarrassment painfully palpable when he asks his moms why they like watching "gay man-porn." (The answer is enlightening.) Of course, the film and the foreseeable Oscar nods belong to Moore and Bening, who are utterly convincing as a long-term gay couple. Their performances seem informed by years of squabbles and elations; you can practically read the history of Jules and Nic in the way the two actors interact. When Jules proclaims that "marriage is hard," in a teary confessional speech to Nic and the kids, we believe her, and we also know she's not going to give up. Their family is worth fighting for.
The Kids Are All Right Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Kids Are All Right may not be "demo worthy" or however you want to phrase it, but I can find little fault in the film's 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer, which is warm, natural-looking, and refined. Shot on 35mm, the movie has a pleasing filmic texture that's untouched by digital noise reduction, edge enhancement, or other post-production abuses. The picture isn't razor sharp, but there's a good degree of fine detail visible on the actors' faces and clothing, and from the looks of it, any softness can be attributed to the original cinematography. Color reproduction is also satisfying; the film has a completely realistic palette—that is, not overly stylized or super-saturated—with warm skin tones and a nice sense of richness overall. Black levels could perhaps be a bit darker and contrast more pronounced, but this is a matter of preference. More importantly, I didn't spot any banding, blocking, aliasing, shimmer, or any of the other encode-related distractions that drive home video enthusiasts batty. I have a feeling the film looks almost exactly as it should.
The Kids Are All Right Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Since the film is a relatively quiet family drama/comedy, you'd be correct in assuming that the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix for The Kids Are All Right isn't exactly going to rock the block or wake the neighbors. Nor should it. The priority here is Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg's witty dialogue, as funneled through the mouths of the film's fine cast. And in that regard, this track is perfect—the voices are clear, weighty, and have appropriate acoustical properties. But that's not all there is to it. The pop songs that accompany the film have punchy clarity and real dynamic presence, and the music is frequently bled into the rear speakers for all-encompassing oomph. You'll also hear some low ambience—the hush of wind, various outdoorsy sounds—but the emphasis is on low. (With the exception, of course, of whenever Paul goes roaring off loudly on his motorcycle, which occasionally gives the LFE channel something to do.) You won't pop in this Blu-ray disc to revel in the spectacularly gut-quaking, schizophrenic cross- channel sound, but the mix doesn't have any real shortcomings either. It is what it is.
The Kids Are All Right Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only substantial bonus here is a fantastic audio commentary with writer/director Lisa Cholodenko. Otherwise, the disc merely offers a trio of extremely short featurettes—The Journey to Forming a Family (1080p, 4:35), The Making of The Kids Are Alright (1080p, 3:45), and The Writer's Process (1080p, 2:27)—all comprised of brief interviews, clips from the film, and a smattering of behind-the-scenes footage. It's not much, but the commentary is definitely worth a listen.
The Kids Are All Right Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A film about marriage, family, and the constant tending required to make relationships work—gardening is the metaphor here—The Kids Are All Right is funny, insightful, relatable, and, as the year draws to a close, one of 2010's best. It may not change anybody's mind about gay marriage, but it really isn't trying to; it's past all of that. This Blu-ray release may not offer much in the special features department, but it has a great high definition transfer and a solid lossless audio track. Recommended!
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The Kids Are All Right Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Kids Are All Right Blu-ray Announced - September 14, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced The Kids are All Right for Blu-ray release on November 16. This independent comedy/drama from Focus Features (not to be mistaken with The Kids Are Alright), starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, was acclaimed ...
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