Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Cast: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hutcherson, Mia Wasikowska
It's not easy being a lesbian. Especially when you're raising a family of sperm-donated kids. Jules (Moore) is feeling the strain of a long marriage, caught between the control-freak clutches of Nick (Bening) and the easygoing sexiness of Mark Ruffalo. Naturally, things soon go up the proverbial creek without a dildo.
Throughout all the ups and downs, the kids are pretty good - Joni (Wasikowski) makes do with the stress of home life until she escapes to Uni and Laser (Hutcherson) is indifferent to most stuff, including the bad effect his friendships have upon him. Together they make a flawed family, a realistic group of messed up humans mucking through the emotional crap that biological father Paul (Ruffalo) dumps on their heads.
Filled with humour and telling observations, Lisa Cholodenko's likeable script (co-written with Stuart Blumberg) manages witty dialogue without the forced idioms of fellow indie Juno. Instead, everything feels far less constructed - people walk out of scenes, laugh at the wrong things and sometimes just don't bother replying at all. Whenever you think a resolution is on its way, out comes a bottle of wine or a devastating discovery; the unpredictability is most effective during a dinner scene, which flows smoothly from a cheerful sing-a-long to a silence fraught with tension.
It's a warm, feel-good, freewheeling affair that's tightly written but feels loose. Breathing space into the awkward gaps are Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, both on top form as the unconventional couple - all spiky chemistry and painful intimacy. But Cholodenko is smart enough to take the emphasis away from their sexuality; the novelty of their nuptial arrangement is swiftly forgotten as Mark Ruffalo works his charming magic. Playing expertly off Mia Wasilowska and Josh Hutcherson, he's every bit the willing father and unwelcome house guest. A man who wrecks a family but is very hard to hate.
Cleverly realised and beautifully shot (DoP Igor Jadue-Lillo nails that Californian sunlight), Cholodenko's cheery drama drifts along at a comfortable speed; there's no overuse of pan and zooms or other annoying camera traits. The naturalist style feels, well, natural. Which is exactly what a good lesbian rom-com should be.
The kids aren't just all right, they're great. This is amusing, honest stuff. With lesbians.
- annette bening
- josh hutcherson
- julianne moore
- lisa cholodenko
- london film festival
- mark ruffalo
- mia wasikowska
- the kids are all right