Jen's Rating:

4.0

...it's the grown-ups who have problems.

Who's In It: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, Yaya DaCosta

The Basics: Eighteen-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and her younger brother, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) seek out the donor whose sperm their lesbian mothers, Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) conceived with years ago. Enter Paul, their motorcycle-riding, slow food farming, hedonistic bachelor restaurateur biological father, who's just as curious to learn about his offspring. As the family dynamics shift around this new male interloper, Jules and Nic find their supposedly rock-solid marriage fraying at the edges and everyone explodes in a mutual outburst of suppressed suburban angst before hugging it out. Mostly.

What's The Deal: Nobody ever said marriage and parenthood were easy. In her third feature film, writer-director Lisa Cholodenko (co-scripting with Stuart Blumberg) lets everyone share in the modern domestic struggle, whether gay or straight, married or single, parent or child. That she does so with such precision and sympathy is what makes The Kids Are All Right resonate and linger; the familial dynamics are familiar, even if you're not a part of an unconventional yippie Los Angeleno brood.

What Cholodenko Really Gets Right: Those subtle, tense moments between significant others when unspoken animosities and deeply buried resentments threaten to spill out into the open and make everyone in the room uncomfortable. No onscreen couple in recent memory has conveyed this kind of invisible relationship tug-of-war better than Moore and Bening. They also show, with depth and complexity, just why Nic's Type A doctor and Jules' laid-back ex-hippie are still in love, even if that revelation takes some painful marital strife to unearth.

Who's Slightly Short-Shrifted In The End: Mark Ruffalo. After becoming a part of the family (and then inadvertently upending it), the hetero male is left to marinate in punishing isolation. So, score one for gay marriage?

Keep Your Eye On: Mia Wasikowska, the 20-year-old waif most recently seen avoiding responsibility in Alice in Wonderland. Here, as college-bound teenager Joni, she displays enough strength and maturity to go head-to-head with Julianne Moore and Annette Bening and show that, as the title says, the kids are all right -- it's the grown-ups who have problems.

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