Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Writers: Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
Cast: Annette Benning (Nic); Julienne Moore (Jules); Mark Ruffalo (Paul)
Mia Wasikowska (Joni); Josh Hutchison (Laser)
Warning about plot details and ending revealed. If you intend to see this movie you may want to read this analysis of "The Kids Are All Right (2010)" afterward.
"The Kids Are All Right" is a drama about relationships between the parents and children in a lesbian family. Nic, a physician played by Annette Benning is excellent as the dominant female, and Julienne Moore (Jules) plays her part excellently as the naive, easy-to-manipulate younger woman of the two. The two mothers met in college and became lovers when Jules went to see a university doctor, who happened to be Nic, doing her residency. They began a relationship and eventually decided they wanted a family and visited a fertility clinic. They used the same sperm donor for both children, making them half-brother and sister with two different mothers but the same father.
Paul, the father played by Mark Ruffalo plays his part superbly as the straight guy, not an intellectual, but smart in a worldly way, and open to the new social standards. Of course, why not, he showed his openness when he donated sperm as a young man who dropped out of college.
Nic (Benning) is portrayed as strong and a confirmed lesbian. Jules (Moore) makes you wonder if she might have been taken advantage of by Nic because she gives the impression of often being unsure, naive and confused. Was it sexuality or the sway of a commanding personality that steered her life in the direction of the same sex couple relationship?
You are later led to speculate upon this even more when Jules meets Paul, the man who donated his sperm and is the father of Laser and Joni. Laser, sixteen, had decided he wanted to meet his father after his older half sister, Joni, eighteen, discovered a file in the house with the information for the clinic and contacted them. The clinic contacted the donor, Paul, informing him he had two offspring. Paul, being a cool guy agreed to meet his "children." and he and Jules meet, through the children, and hit it off.
Paul owns an organic foods restaurant and shows Jules his garden where he grows fresh vegetables. When she confesses having given up a landscape-designing career to stay home as a housewife, he hires her to landscape his backyard. They get along so well that they become involved in a sexual relationship. Paul gives the impression of being a sincere guy who wants to assume some responsibility in the children's' lives. He has been leading a bachelor's life but he comes to enjoy having dinner and getting together with his son and daughter.
At this point all parties except Nic (who has not yet met Paul and not wanted to) are happily interacting. Paul is growing into the concept of family life and fatherhood, a question mark has been removed from the minds of Laser and Joni, and Jules seems to be on the way to rediscovering an abandoned part of her emotional and physical life. Nic is persuaded to meet Paul for dinner at his home where he cooks his organic recipes for them. Nic imbibes wine excessively, in many scenes, which reveals the stress she is under from her duties as a physician, and the imminent leaving of Joni for college. We are never sure who is the mother of which child. You can also see that she is dependent emotionally on Jules, as Jules is on her financially.
When Nic goes upstairs to use the bathroom she discovers Jules' long red hair in the bathtub drain, and looking further, in Paul's bed. Of course this leads to an emotional scene and a blow up of the developing good alternative family relationships. It is very understandable that Nic would become so upset-she fears that Jules will desert her for Paul.
For awhile we are left wondering which way the story will go, until one night, after Jules has been sleeping on the living room couch at her house, she makes a declaration to the children and Nic that she is not leaving and apologizes for her infidelity and assures them she is back to being her old self. At this point depending on your personal viewpoint you will either feel glad or sad.
This is a complex intersection of different viewpoints. Jules has a chance to become the woman perhaps she was meant to be. Is she stronger than she seems, or really wishy-washy? When the sexual relationship began with Paul, it was she who initiated it when she spontaneously hugged him out of happiness after she showed him her work in his yard and he complimented her. She kissed him happily, and then it suddenly became a passionate kiss and they ended up in bed together.
Working at landscape designing, resuming her abandoned career, obviously fulfilled her and made Jules happy. Paul is a handsome and masculine man, a dominant personality because he dropped out of college to start his career and build up his business as a restaurateur. You can see Jules has a need to be loved and cared for. She needs that more than being an independent career woman. She easily falls under the domination of a strong personality. But she has an emotional nature that needs to express itself artistically. When she made the decision to break up with Paul and remain with Nic and her family she chose safety. It leaves you wondering if she may change her mind in a few years when Laser moves out to attend college.
Paul, when breaking up with his girl friend after he became involved with Jules, told her he wanted to settle down and have a family. This indicated he was ready to settle down with Jules and regard Laser and Joni as his new family. The end of the movie emphasizes the human need for close associations, as in a family, when Paul goes to visit them. Nic answers the door and, seeing Paul, exclaims in a fury, "Get your own family!"
Which is the reason I had to write an analysis of "The Kids Are All Right." From my observations of human life, jealousy and possessiveness head the list of the destructive emotions and traits. Whether you look back at the story of Cain and Abel, it is always the same: jealousy and possessiveness. We keep hearing the plaintiff question "Why can't we all get along?" Not until we get rid of our own worst selves.