Friday, March 18, 2011
The Kids Are All Right
Finally saw it, but only because someone brought the DVD over to our house. (It had "not my kind of movie" written all over it.) As I've said elsewhere on this blog, I'm for gay marriage. But that doesn't mean I wanted to sit through a self-satisfied two hour advertisement for it. (I'd already seen Annette Bening, one of the stars, looking awfully pleased with herself at the Academy Awards, and that was enough.)
The movie turned out to be propaganda only to the extent that it did not focus on the politics of gay marriage, but merely accepted it as a given. It was instead a skillfully rendered, realistic portrayal of a family with normal types of problems.
The only reason it wasn't as boring as it sounds was because it was so excruciatingly painful to watch.
There seems to be an entire genre of comedy these days which specializes in creating the most awkward and embarrassing situations imaginable. These comedies tend to feature actors like Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston. Imagine those situations, but without the saving grace of humor, and you have The Kids Are All Right.
(I'm now wondering, would it have worked better as a comedy? Lesbian couple's marriage turns stale, kids look up sperm donor father, father meets lesbian couple, wacky hijinks ensue! Wild hilarity for all!)
If you feel you don't get enough bickering at home, then this movie is for you. If you feel starved for awkward, judgmental teenagers, or self-indulgent adults, watch it. If you enjoy watching someone with a drinking problem, get it. And if you savor the recriminations after someone gets caught cheating, then rush out to rent the DVD.
None of the major characters are all good, or all bad: everybody is simply human. The best people were the two children, hence the title. They serve essentially as the Greek chorus, and we see everything through their more innocent, idealistic eyes.
(But I couldn't help but suspect that with those parents, they would eventually turn out to be equally self-indulgent as adults. We can only hope that they'll be the kind of kids who turn out to be a reaction against their parents.)
Not a single character in the movie was particularly good-looking, or admirable, or witty. But they were recognizable, and real. If that's your definition of greatness, then this movie is a ten. Most critics seemed to feel that was the case.
I prefer escapism.
But I have to give credit for the well drawn portrait. And the two stars must be lauded for their lack of vanity. There are a lot of glamourpusses -- and both Bening and Julianne Moore used to be counted among them -- who would never consent to be filmed looking so unappealing.
(In fact, after watching the movie I had to watch a couple scenes from The Grifters on Youtube, just to make sure my memory hadn't played tricks on me, and that Annette Bening once really was as sexy as I recalled.)
My favorite character was Clay, the feckless quasi-bully who wanted to urinate on the head of a stray dog. He reminded me of a lot of guys I knew growing up. (I haven't known as many bickering lesbian couples, for which this movie has made me grateful.)
My son, who serves as the Greek chorus in our family, surprisingly made it through the entire film. Even more surprisingly, he said he didn't think it was that bad.
But he did point out that it might have been improved with a slightly different emphasis: "They should have had a little more action, and called it 'Naked Ninja Lesbians.' Oh yeah, and it should have starred Jamie Pressley and Keira Knightley instead of those two."