The Kids Are All Right
by Sawyer J. Lahr
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Don’t go expecting a lesbian movie or The Who Rock Concert, The Kids Are All Right is a rare lesbian family drama that might get the Mormon’s railing to overturn gay adoption rights in California. That is, if it plays out of LA and NYC. Known for daring yet substantive projects including this one, Focus features released the groundbreaking LGBT feature Shortbus, Brokeback Mountain, and Milk. On a small-budget and just over twenty days to shoot the film, Director Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon, High Art) puts forth a flawed family headed by lesbian moms faced with the reappearance of their sperm donor, two rebellious teenagers, and marital upset. While New England queens escape their families for the desert in Sex and the City 2, “Moms” Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) stick it out through better or worse.
It’s a surmountable but delicate challenge convincing audiences that characters are authentically straight or gay. Though it may appear more difficult for straight actors to play gay, Anette Bening and Julianne Moore gracefully portray two long-term lesbian partners with an 18-year-old daughter and 16-year-old born son born from the same sperm. When Joni (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland) is convinced by her brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) to seek out the donor dad, the sudden influence of the father renders everything in a new light. We find that the parent’s are not quite all right, but they’ll find a way back to each other.
It looks that the convention of using straight actors to play gay roles has more or less stuck. At least for Cholodenko, the choice was choosing talent ahead of box office appeal. Since minority stories are marginalized generally anyway, the risk for two highly respected actress to take on lesbian characters is nil. If the movie opened in as many theaters as SATC 2 or Toy Story 3, there might be Mormon and bible belt backlash, but few indies not nominated for a Best Picture Oscar get distributed as far.
While there is little likelihood of upsetting the masses and expounding on an already mainstream dialogue about gay adoption, a lesbian family drama is timely if seen by more than gay-friendly straights. Mark Ruffalo, being the major heterosexual character, might just attract swing-voting political moderates. Certainly the generous amount of straight sex is enough to re-edit a trailer for straight audiences, minimizing the gay factor to lure the unsuspecting. Those privileged to see The Kids Are All Right, will be surprised how well balanced every character’s particular drama is treated.
Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.
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