About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right is one of the specialty hits of the year at movie theatres, and deservedly so. It's one of the rare, maybe handful a year, stunningly raved about art movies that can legitimately be stunningly raved about. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play a lesbian couple with two children, a daughter just about to head off to college and a son a couple of years younger. The son is wondering about who his father is, now that his sister's 18 she can ask for the information, and he prevails upon her to get it. Dad turns out to be a charming organic restauranteur cad played by Mark Ruffalo. He comes into their lives, and things get real different real quick.

It's the strangest recipe for a movie I'd really like. Co-written and directed by a director, Lisa Cholodenko, whose one previous major release, High Art, I had zero interest in seeing a dozen years ago and who has done little since. Add in two actresses that I view with at least some hesitancy. I don't dislike Annette Bening, but it's been twenty years since I'd consider her to be a major part of the film discussion with films like Bugsy and The Grifters. Julianne Moore has been more an ongoing part of the film discussion in recent years. Sometimes overhyped, as in her Oscar-nominated role in A Single Man; a good and vibrant movie but not particularly on account of her. Sometimes lending arthouse cred to a bad movie; Blindess. Other times, Children of Men, a good thing in a good movie Not bad, but hardly the Good Housekeeping seal. And yet here, these two actresses are brilliant. They play off one another fantastically. It helps that they have well-written parts, but the chemistry between them comes from within these two actresses.

And then there's a nice play of styles between them and Mark Ruffalo. The ladies are often giving very internalized performances, kind of showing that there are things they're keeping inside, that there's stuff you don't tell the kids about. Ruffalo broke through ten years ago with You Can Count On Me, and he's spent the ten years since doing a mix of things that provide a paycheck one month and the next month that are really interesting roles that you have to know even before you've started are interesting in movies that nobody will see. The Kids Are All Right may be his best work since that breakout role ten years ago. He charms the children he fathered, charms the parents, even the initially very standoffish Annette Bening, charms the camera, charms the audience, charms everything his eyes come in contact with. And he's a cad. Of stunning, epic proportion.

The kids are played by not-yet-18 Josh Hutcherson and 20-year-old Mia Wasikowska. I didn't find either of them to be amazingly strong, but they both kept up with the rest of the people on the set, which is no small thing.

I wasn't entirely sure about the ending. There's a Stella Dallas moment toward the end for the Mark Ruffalo character that can be seen as some richly deserved just desserts or something stunningly cruel. And I'm just not sure which it is. I saw this July 19 at the AMC Empire, screen #8.

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