A new review from The Movie Snob
The Kids Are All Right (B). This is probably not a movie a card-carrying member of the Religious Right like myself would ordinarily go see. The tale, as told by the trailers, is that two lesbians are jointly raising a teenaged daughter and son; each woman conceived one of the children by artificial insemination from the same anonymous sperm donor. When the daughter, Joni (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland), turns 18, her 15-year-old half-brother, bizarrely tagged “Laser,” goads her into calling the clinic to try to arrange a meeting with their father. Dad agrees, and he turns out to be a cool, motorcycling dude who promptly starts causing friction in their unconventional family. It’s a well-made film in which the characters behave in what seemed to me like a reasonable way, given the unusual circumstances that bring them all together. (Although it did seem a bit unbelievable that the two moms would have used the same sperm donor to conceive their respective children three years apart.)
*** SPOILERS FOLLOW ***
So unless you are totally on the sidelines of the culture wars, you must be wondering whether this movie is simply a preachy cheer for the gay-marriage movement. To me, it does seem like a cheer, but not a terribly preachy one. The lesbians’ relationship is certainly not idealized; Nic (Annette Bening, The Women) is a semi-alcoholic control-freak doctor, while Jules (Julianne Moore, Children of Men) is a vaguely discontent homemaker. Their roughly 20-year relationship has gotten so rocky that Jules and baby-daddy Paul (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island) eventually have a full-on affair, her homosexuality notwithstanding. Once the affair comes to light, the moms and kids circle the wagons and send Paul packing. At which point, I realized how differently different people will view what has gone on. As the main characters (except maybe Paul) and presumably the director see it, and as lots of other folks will see it, Jules has committed adultery, and Paul is nothing more than a home-wrecker, a foreign invader who is properly repulsed by movie’s end. On the other hand, folks who oppose the gay-marriage movement might acknowledge that Jules has committed a breach of trust, but they won’t consider it adultery. Although Jules and Paul’s affair is an extramarital one, it won’t seem particularly worse than the hundred other extramarital affairs Hollywood will depict this year–especially given the weird angle that they have already conceived a child together. Whether the director intended it or not, I couldn’t help having a little sympathy for Paul at the end. He’s an immature troublemaker, to be sure, but when he signed up to be a sperm donor almost 20 years earlier to make some quick cash, he surely never dreamed he’d ever have any experience of fatherhood out of the deal, or so quickly bond with his kids, or equally quickly get shut back out of their lives. Whatever this movie has to say about gay marriage, it seems like a bit of a warning on the whole artificial-insemination biz.