The Kids Are All Right - Cinema Review

'director Lisa Cholodenko has mixed indie-flavoured youth with indie-flavoured experience and come out smelling largely of indie-flavoured roses'

A modern family drama creating decent amounts of Oscar buzz at the moment, The Kids Are All Right aspires higher than its rather formulaic script thanks to a sterling set of performances from its five central actors. In pulling together Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, director Lisa Cholodenko has mixed indie-flavoured youth with indie-flavoured experience and come out smelling largely of indie-flavoured roses.

It's unfair to pick a highlight from what comes close to being a true ensemble but few stars are rising higher than Mark Ruffalo's at the moment and here the soon-to-be Bruce Banner proves he can do just about anything. Most articles describe Ruffalo's Paul as being a 'restauranteur' but the truth is much more exotic. Paul is a slowly ageing hippie; the type of laid-back, East-coast, chino-wearing gent who says things like 'right on' and who dropped out of college because he wanted to 'do things'. In another actor's hands Paul could be terrifically twee and unconvincing but Ruffalo makes him charming, affable and believable. Paul is completely different to, say, Dave Toschi in Zodiac or in his small but brilliant role in Where the Wild Things Are and he marks Ruffalo out as a proper dramatic actor, able and willing to slip into a plethora of different personae.

If Ruffalo is the dynamic heart of the film then it's a shame then the script can't bend with him. It's true that there aren't many Hollywood films out there which feature a homosexual marriage as their main relationship, or artificial insemination as their MacGuffin, but put those things aside and what you've got is a bog-standard family drama. Cholodenko does all the basics well but it's only the basics that are on show here; standard arguments and conflicts arise as change approaches the happy family nucleus in the shape of both Paul and the impending departure of Joni (Wasikowska) to college. Whilst every character remains fairly unpredictable in the hands of great players, the story remains anything but and I for one found it difficult to fall in love with something which increasingly felt like it was merely going through the motions.

That said, Cholodenko deserves massive applause for some constituent parts of her central message. The kids being 'Right' is a generally important theme throughout and in a time when we've had necessary but downhearted offerings such as Harry Brown and Eden Lake, a bit of optimism directed towards the youth of today is both welcome and well executed. Joni and Laser (Hutcherson) aren't always right but they're generally close enough and seeing them learn from life's little trials is one of the films absolute joys.

Formulaic and flawed but equally warm and featuring some sparkling performances, The Kids Are All Right is a showcase for what great acting can do for a mediocre script.

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The Incredible Suit's cliché detector goes into overdrive as he calls The Kids Are All Right 'funny and touching'.


  1. I disagree the script was predictable and formulaic and the films strengths were soley the performances. If it ain't on the page, it aint on the stage. As much as I enjoyed Ruffalo, I wasn't entirely convinced by his shift towards wanting to settle with Jules. However, I agree the film overall was excellent. I have also reviewed the film for Culturedeluxe

  2. Cheers for stopping by the comment johnneyred. I take your point about Paul's shift (which perhaps didn't ring entirely true) but for the whole, I was convinced by the story, just not excited by it - my main reason for not really loving it as much as some people have. I guess my point about the performances could be re-phrased; I like every actor in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT and could therefore watch them do pretty much anything, even when I'm not really blown away by the story and scripting. Still, glad you liked it!

  3. ooooh i definitely wanna see this. i'm a fan of mark ruffalo who never seems to get his due.

  4. I agree with you a lot here. I think the film's story and representation of marriage has been overblown and overrated, but the praising of the performances are spot-on. They really do keep you engaged.

    That said, the script's dialogue is very crisp and solid, which helps keep it entertaining.

  5. Candice - I really like Ruffalo too. Glad he's getting some attention from this!

    Danny - cheers for that. Perhaps you're right on the script/story split, I'll have to watch it again to see if I've perhaps confused or wrongly combined the two together. In praise of it, it did feel very natural and I heard the actors talking recently about how Cholodenko lets scenes run on past their actual 'end'. I think you can definitely see that in the film and it does help make the script feel more naturalistic.