Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sneak Preview: The Kids Are All Right

A few weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly ran a story about how box office numbers are down and it's quite possibly because the quality of movies is down. This, of course, was before Toy Story 3 came out and was both fantastic and hugely successful. One of the points in the EW article was that, at this point last year, five of the ten eventual Best Picture nominees had already been released, including the eventual winner. This year, no movie had yet come out which had any prayer of being nominated. Again, before Toy Story 3, which I think has a decent shot. Anyways, a lot of hope for the first (or second) really great movie have been put on the first big-hype indie movie of the year, The Kids Are All Right. It opens July 16, but I was able to catch a sneak preview tonight.

Wherefore the hype? The movie stars three talented can't-miss actors in Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo. The plot is intriguing, dealing with a same-sex female couple with teenage kids. When the older kid turns 18, she finds out who the sperm donor was that her mothers used, and the two kids (both from his seed) meet him clandestinely out of curiosity. When the moms find out what the kids have done, they welcome the man so that the kids' curiosity is satisfied. Dramedy ensues. The acting is great -- Bening and Ruffalo could be the first actors I've seen this year that merit Oscar nomination talk -- but the hype should end right there.

It's good. It's entertaining. I enjoyed seeing it. Deep inside The Kids Are All Right, there is the kernel of a very, very good movie. The problem is that the outside is merely (mostly) good. It just misses and those are the types of movies that are a bit frustrating. You can easily pick apart a few things and that makes you wonder why the film makers couldn't see those flaws as well. There seems to be an editing issue, where there are a number of nice scenes that don't necessarily add to the overall movie and, therefore, take away from the flow. More than anything, I feel like the movie doesn't quite know what it wants to be.

I'm fine with a "slice of life" movie where the story arc is subtle, but some of the characters' actions are a little unnatural for it to be that type of movie. I'm fine with a "message" movie where everything is pointed towards getting across a specific theme, but there are too many superfluous actions and hanging threads. I didn't love where a couple of the characters went. I didn't love part of the ending. It, overall, left me frustrated.

I could go on a rant about how some of the movie is too liberal (I call it having "Rachel Getting Married disease"). Ruffalo's character is supposed to be a man's man, but he has an organic farm. It's just so California. Not really, but that's what the stereotypes say, just as well as Larry The Cable Guy's stereotypes speak to Southern culture. There's a scene where one character rants about how some liberal things are too phony and, while seeming a bit forced, it at least made things a little more realistic. People who are more familiar with same-sex relationships than I am may have an issue with one thing that happens during the movie, as well. I don't need to nitpick to that point, though, because of the fundamental thematic flaws. I'm a big Ruffalo fan and he's great. Bening and Moore are also great, though Moore suffers from being saddled with some of the cheesier lines and, even though she has the great monologue at the end, her best-written stuff feels a little forced (also, I was thrown by the fact that she doesn't have a thick Boston accent in this movie, but that's beside the point). So, yes, I enjoyed it, but I'm still searching for a second Best Picture-caliber movie.

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