Who's In It: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
The Basics: Bening and Moore are a lesbian couple raising two teenage kids who discover that their 15-year-old son has pushed his 18-year-old sister to initiate contact with Ruffalo, their sperm-selling bio-Dad. Unlike their upscale, conscientious mothers, he's a scruffy, motorcycle-riding, hot chick-enjoying organic farmer/restaurateur. And then he fractures their carefully ordered ladyworld, almost driving the family apart, by having sex with Moore. Once again--just how they taught you in school--penises ruin everything.
What's The Deal: If you liked The Cosby Show and don't reflexively hate gay people then you're pretty much going to dig this movie because it's that show's R-rated lesbian equivalent. That's not a criticism either. The Cosby Show pushed 1980s pop culture forward and earned its pushing rights because its somewhat idealized scenarios were funny and gave audiences something it hadn't seen before. And this sweet-natured comedy/drama, the first high-profile feature about lesbian parents, plays in the same territory, inviting you into a family you like and sort of wish you knew if only for the way they always have supper at the same time every night.
Characters Welcome: This movie can't escape the fact that it exists in the middle of a high-pitched culture battle over gay people in the United States, which puts it in the position of being more than a film to some people. So one pleasant surprise is the way it doesn't pretend that everything was perfect before the interloping male came along, ruining any chance for the left or the right to hold it up as an example for their cause. The script, the actors and director Lisa Cholodenko turn both main and supporting players into unique characters who can't be "typed" and that's to its credit. Example: Annette Bening is perfectly Type A here, but turns around and sings a Joni Mitchell song at dinner, unembarrassed. Meanwhile the "momses," as daughter Mia Wasikowska calls them, are awesome enough to name their son Laser but they're also annoyingly double-mother-smothering about his upbringing, to the point where the kid goes out and becomes best friends with the most obnoxiously unpleasant boy he can find. Details like that make a difference.
My Only Beef: In general it seems a little pleased with itself, ignoring its moms' sense of upper middle-class entitlement. (At one point Moore fires a Mexican gardener for looking at her the wrong way and no one seems compelled to tell her she's a jerk for doing so.) And I'm not a fan of forced happy endings. Ever. So I could have lived without the neatly wrapped up heartwarmth. You may not cringe over that kind of thing like I do. If not then you'll love it from start to finish.
The Reason Ruffalo's Girlfriend Looks Familiar: She's Yaya DaCosta from America's Next Top Model, making lemonade from her runner-up status. Respeito!