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REVIEW: Moore, Bening shine in mature “Kids Are All Right”

By Sean O’Connell

Hollywoodnews.com: REVIEW: “The Kids Are All Right” (*** out of 4 stars)

The kids aren’t the ones we’re worried about in Lisa Cholodenko’s mature-minded coming-of-age comedy. It’s the grownups who have the hardest time coping with the aftermath of a decision made by California siblings Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and Joni (Mia Wasikowska).

The teenaged offspring of life-long lesbian couple Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening), Laser and Joni agree to finally find Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the perfect stranger who blessed them with life by donating sperm to a clinic years ago. Paul’s arrival loosens up the otherwise rigid family unit, awakening them to deeper relationship troubles that could dissect the clan before Joni packs up and leaves for college.

“Kids” operates within a calculated, hipster environment of aviator sunglasses, Bonnaroo concert t-shirts, and a soft-rock-easy-folk soundtrack (loved Bening baring her soul for an a capella rendition of a Joni Mitchell tune). “He’s working the alternative thing pretty hard,” Jules says of Paul, and it’s meant to be judgmental and condescending. I had a similar thought about the movie, though. Cholodenko’s conversations can be stiff, the product of obvious scripting. Her characters don’t deliver organic dialogue. Their confrontations come across as rehearsed, though their insights regarding parenting and relationships are worth hearing.

We eventually stop noticing, however, because Cholodenko’s ensemble is so powerful. Ruffalo and Bening patiently deliver everything the script needs, picking the right moments to rise above and deliver an emotional jab. Wasikowska demonstrates a staying power, having previously held her own alongside Tim Burton’s effects in “Alice in Wonderland.” But it’s Moore who emerges triumphant, unearthing compassion for Jules, who could have come across as an irritating concoction of insecurities and foibles. If “Kids” makes a run through the Oscar season — as it should — Focus Features would be wise to but Moore’s devastating performance at the head of its pack.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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One Comment

  • July 25, 2010 | Permalink |

    This movie left me angry and disappointed, as they missed so so many opportunities to develop interesting story lines, yet chose to take usual, annoying and straight-world perspective that all lesbians eventually need or want a man. What an unpleasant bore.

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