"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Kids are All Right? Not So Much

The Kids are All Right is not to be confused with the excellent movie, The Kids are Alright. So, first of all, I don't really get the title. What makes the kids okay?  Or is it that they have moments where the kids come up with an intelligent idea or two? The kids in the movie each hung out with a bullying best friend, which isn't "right." So they're clearly not right all the time. The moms worried about the son being gay, but he wasn't, so is that what's "right"? Or is the right-ness that he knows he's straight, he's correct about his sexual orientation whereas the moms were clearly in the wrong on that one. I'm confused. Anyway, some spoilers below but, really, nothing you couldn't guess from the trailer.

What's the hoopla about this movie? Maybe I'm being too hard on it because I was really really looking forward to this film, and it just didn't meet my expectations. I worry a bit that people think it's amazing just because the moms are lesbians and everyone wants to celebrate that. It's great when LGBTQ relationships are depicted as regular folk in movies, but it can't be enough to carry the film. Because if you take out that one ingredient, it's just about a couple who are getting stale, who connect with their donor who sleeps with the wife, which shakes up the marriage and upsets the kids, but they all live happily ever after. There wasn't a moment of clever dialogue. There weren't intriguing ideas presented that I had to go away and really think about for a while. There weren't unusual or intense characters presented. And there weren't, really, amazing acting skills being showcased here except, maybe, Mia Wasikowska. Bening is cute as a button, and she does a reasonable job, but I'm always conscious that she's acting. I never get lost in her performance. Look, she's doing cold and uppity. Now she's doing upset. Now she's doing sad. But maybe that's just me. Is she getting kudos just because she was able to kiss Julianne Moore convincingly? I've kissed worse.

Their daughter is leaving home for the first time, and the grief that could bring to some parents was barely registered. I know it's a light-hearted film, but comedies don't work when they gloss over pain. Their son is hanging out with a total jerk and the obsessive parents are practically oblivious. They mention disliking him, but they do little else even though they seem controlling in most other aspects of their lives. Everyone seemed a little flat in their performances.

I understood Ruffalo's character most. He's a player who suddenly realizes what he could have had, but doesn't, and he attaches with some desperation. But the family's reaction to this bothered me. There wasn't an ounce of understanding. He got full blame for the affair, and they wrote him off. So long as he's not there, they're all fine, right? There wasn't any resolution of any depth here. They held hands at the end - big deal. I predict Bening's character will go back to being controlling and Moore's character will meet someone else pretty darn soon.

If you want to see a good comedy about people having affairs and the problems that brings, check out Hannah and Her Sisters. I'm not a Woody Allen groupie, but this one is very good. It's hilarious, yet Allen has a way of still showing the grief and heartache and anxiety an affair can cause. It makes us react. Or, even funnier in my eyes is Play It Again, Sam. Remember that scene where Linda's getting into bed with her husband, but she's looking at that little skunk Allan got her. I know exactly how she was feeling. I wasn't watching her; I was right there with her.

If, on the other hand, you want to see a marriage in crisis acted beautifully in a way that gets you so involved you want to hug them and you cry for them and you really feel for each of them, and you cheer for them when they work through their crap and actually begin to get to the other side, then watch Rabbit Hole, and give this tripe a pass.

If what you're really after, though, is a excellent film with a lesbian couple at the centre of it all, I wish I could recommend one. Better Than Chocolate almost gets it. The story line could be so good in someone else's hands, but, like The Kids..., it's superficial and flat which is such a shame because it's so close to being really good! But I'm a Cheerleader is hilarious, but it's campy. It's not a realistic portrayal of a relationship, but it's still a lot of fun. The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love is cute, but by no means an excellent film. Actually, I loved the family in that movie - the main character's two moms were exceptional, but there's not enough of them. Go Fish has got to be one of the worst movies ever made, but it's still on top ten lesbian film lists because there's just not enough good lesbian films out there. There are others I can think of with a lesbian couple in the background, but not at the centre presented as normal, regular folk just going about their lives.

One that works better than most, actually, is Kissing Jessica Stein.  It's sort of about a lesbian couple, but one party is reluctant to fully embrace the identity.  It touches on some realistic issues though.  

I think this all means we're not far along enough to treat lesbian relationships as part of an excellent movie instead of the main focus, the special effect that will draw in enough of a crowd that the rest of the film can be painfully mediocre.

Any other lesbian film suggestions? Any truly excellent ones out there that aren't about the lesbian-ness of it all, but about life in general?

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