Review: The Kids Are All Right DVD

The Kids Are All Right DVD boxSTUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Lisa Cholodenko | CAST: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hutcherson, Mia Wasikowska, YaYa Dacosta
RELEASE DATE: 11/16/10 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $39.98
BONUSES: commentary, three featurettes
SPECS: R | 107 min. | Comedy drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio  | Video  | Overall

The Kids Are All Right movie sceneThe idea of a newcomer infiltrating a family for fun (and, sometimes, profit) is as old as the hills, but the comedy drama The Kids Are All Right from co-writer/director Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) puts a fresh spin on the notion: The couple at the center of the art house film are lesbians and their children were conceived by way of artificial insemination.

Nic (Annette Bening, American Beauty), a physician with a strong constitution, and Jules (Julianne Moore, Chloe), a micro-managing landscaper, are the couple, raising their children (played by Josh Hutcherson of Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant and Mia Wasikowska of Alice in Wonderland) in what appears to be a fairly settled Southern California family atmosphere. The children look for their biological father, and enter Paul (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island), a motorcycle-riding bachelor restauranteur and Mr. Good Sperm. Paul’s presence in the household rocks the boat of everyone concerned, especially Jules and Nic, whose relationship with each other has become complacent.

The movie smartly balances the serious with the satiric thanks to fine performances and sharp dialog. Bening is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination and Moore and Ruffalo are possibilities.

There’s a funny bit about gay porn and Ruffalo’s free-wheeling ways with women, and the sudden adjustments all in the family try to make with his arrival ring emotionally true. Are the consequences of Ruffalo’s presence and behavior totally believable? That’s open for debate.

Still, Cholodenko has taken a step forward as a filmmaker and storyteller with The Kids Are All Right, fashioning a domestic story that until very recently was considered “alternative” with genuine wit and affection.

Cholodenko recorded a commentary for the DVD and Blu-ray, in which she recounts the filmmaking process, from her conception of the story idea, her partnering with long-time writer friend Stuart Blumberg for the script, the casting of the actors and more. The track is a bit dry, but dedicated fans of the writer/directed will enjoy listening to her.

She also talks about her partnership with Blumberg in the featurette “The Writers Process” and her inspiration for the film, which took five years to get onto screens, in “The Journey to Forming a Family.” We learn, among other things, that Cholodenko and her partner were looking into having a child when she came up with the premise for Kids.

A third making-of featurette shows the actors, all praising the movie and saying how much they enjoyed working together. All three featurettes are brief and to the point, which is fine for this indie film.

 

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.