Sundance has a lot to answer for. The festival seems to be responsible for a certain breed of film. Not quite a comedy, but funny. Characters tend to be whimsical yet three dimensional. Think Juno. Think Little Miss Sunshine. Think anything by Wes Anderson. Think The Kids Are Alright.
The plot concerns two kids, Lazer (15) and Joni (18), whose parents are lesbians. They decide to find their biological Dad, who donated the sperm their mothers used to have them.
Their father turns out to be the charming and laid back Paul (Mark Ruffalo). However, for Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) the idea of having someone new in their kids’ lives takes a bit of getting used to.
The Kids Are Alright is about a lot of things. Family, marriage, coming-of-age, growing old, growing up, taking responsibility. It manages to effortlessly manoeuvre through all these things through the strength of its characters.
Each one of them could conceivably carry the film. Take eighteen year old Joni. She’s about to leave home to go to university. Smart and secure, except when it comes to guys; having another adult in her life with fresh ideas is something she takes to very easily.
What I liked most about the film was that because each character existed on their own terms, none were ever sacrificed to the plot.
The relationship between Jules and Nic is incredibly well realised. There’s a great sense of history one would expect from a couple who’ve been together twenty years. Old grudges and resentments surfacing as new wounds are inflicted.
It also does a good job of showing that their relationship not only impacts one another but their kids as well. Arguments between them hurting all members of this modern yet strangely traditional family.
It also wisely steers away from ramming home a message about homosexual adoption. In fact, the manner in which all the characters deal with (or simply ignore) the issue allows us as an audience to consider our own opinions on the matter.
The Kids Are All Right has precisely the type of things I look for in a good narrative film. It’s funny, well written, and has characters I can easily empathise with. If you’re a fan of these kind of independent, Sundance-y movies, I’ve no doubt you’ll like this one.