Blu-ray Review: THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT - A Beautiful, Personal Piece That Avoids Cliches

Lesbians, love triangles, artificial insemination, children tracking down surrogate parents. This might sound like a melange of topics that have been filmmaker fodder since the 90's indie film revolution, but even if it does, an intelligent, darkly comedic script and astutely observed performances make this a very tasty melange. The Oscar nominated The Kids Are All Right is released on Blu-ray and DVD from yesterday, here is our review... Jules and Nic (Julianne Moore and Annette Benning) are the happily married gay couple €“ Nic a successful doctor and Jules, a bit of a cowboy onto her latest venture of being a landscape gardener €“ who have each had a child through artificial insemination from the same donor €“ Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). On her 18th birthday, Joni, with the support of Laser, decides to locate their birthfather; enter Paul (Mark Ruffalo) a new age hipster who owns and operates an organic produce Market. His entrance into the lives of the children is sneered at by the protective gay lovers, but soon indulged as they realise the potential social benefits he may have on the lives of their children. Jules is the more accommodating of the two, quickly taking up a job working on Paul€™s garden, much to the steadily building disgust and anxiety of Nic. And she has right to be anxious, as with every interaction, Paul and Jules become more attracted to each other until the inevitable happens and they end up bumping uglies on a daily basis at his house. While the plot of this piece is nothing special and never really surprises you, the way that it unfolds and the detail given to the characters gives it a real air of authenticity. This is as much to do with the acting skills on hand as it is to do with the sublime script and subtle direction from Lisa Cholodenko. It is charming, funny, and emotional and contains some of the most uncomfortable moments in recent film memory; most notably a scene in which Nic and Jules are watching male gay porn and the volume goes through the roof. Equally tense is a dining table scene where Nic discovers Jules and Paul have been sleeping together; the camera tracks with her in slow motion, cutting out all sound and capturing every little detail on the face of a woman who has just had her every anxiety and fear realised and she now is forced to sit at the dinner table and to spare a scene that will ruin her children€™s illusions of their Mom and birthfather, keep her mouth shut and down yet another glass of her red favoured red. Mark Ruffalo turns in his usual 'Mark Ruffalo' performance: likable, charming and competent if never dazzling. Which is suited to his character as a take life as it comes, California dude. Mia Waikowska and Josh Hutcherson both give fine enough performances, the recession of their characters' role in the plot as the film progresses stops them from really rising to the fore to demonstrate their acting chops. The stars of the show are without question Benning and Moore, who were deserving of their many award nominations. Benning is marvellous as the insecure, functioning alcoholic doctor and 'father' of the house. She gives a master class in how to act with your eyes and was bitterly unlucky not to walk away with the Oscar for best actress for the third time in a decade (at least this time it wasn't Hillary Swank she had to smile and clap graciously to in defeat). However, even unluckier in this case is her screen lover, Moore, who really excels for me. It's a more rounded performance that lets her examine a wider range of emotions and acting skills. She is called to be angry and bitter while quickly after she is genuinely hilarious on a number of occasions - the most memorable being when her assistant clocks onto her afternoon sessions with Ruffalo and she attempts to cover it up. Exiting the house barefoot, half dressed and hair a mess she exclaims, 'What?! I was using the bathroom! You need to use the bathroom?' He doesn't, but he does know Moore is diddling their employer. This is a film that could so easily have fallen into cliché, with predictable gay humour or drama derived from stereotypes. The plot is not particularly expansive or surprising but the conveyance of the story and the detail of depth of the characters is what make this a strong and memorable film. It€™s got a heart and characters with problems that are far more complicated than your usual Hollywood affair. They seem genuine, much more rounded individuals with pasts that are fully fleshed out and given to us in believable actions and strong dialogue.

QUALITY

While this is by no means a title that pushes the visual capabilities of Blu-Ray, the transfer does give great depth of detail to the wonderful colour design of the homes of Paul and Nic and Jules and really does allow the lush greens and rainbow of colours of Paul€™s garden to come through. It€™s not always most flattering to the ageing actresses, or Ruffalo who is carrying a few more pounds than in recent outings, but this is a sign of the future as Blu Rays catches every little blemish and will no doubt be responsible for a revolution in stylist techniques or death through extreme cosmetic surgery to hide those lines of time.

EXTRAS

The quantity of extras is nothing to get excited about and there€™s certainly nothing unique here. Three featurettes cover the making of the film and offer behind the scenes footage and brief interviews with the stars and filmmakers. By far the best bonus feature is the director€™s commentary by Lisa Cholodenko. It€™s only the fourth director€™s commentary I have listened to and the most passionate one I have heard since Tarantino€™s for the True Romance special edition DVD, where his energy, passion and nostalgia for the piece are practically coming out of the screen. Cholodenko might not achieve this but she does speak with love, affection and passion for this piece that she clearly holds very dear to her heart and was without doubt a labour of love for her. The Kids Are All Right was released yesterday on Blu-ray and DVD.
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Frustratingly argumentative writer, eater, reader and fanatical about film ‘n’ food and all things fundamentally flawed. I have been a member of the WhatCulture family since it was known as Obsessed with Film way back in the bygone year of 2010. I review films, festivals, launch events, award ceremonies and conduct interviews with members of the ‘biz’. Follow me @FilmnFoodFan In 2011 I launched the restaurant and food criticism section. I now review restaurants alongside film and the greatest rarity – the food ‘n’ film crossover. Let your imaginations run wild as you mull on what that might look like!