Unlike Most Gay Films, This One Is Exceptional
by Warren Day
“The Kids Are All Right” may be the first romantic comedy set entirely within a family, but this household ain’t a right-wing, family-values one. Not by an NRA long shot.
Perennial Oscar nominees Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play Nic and Jules, a lesbian couple who for all rhyme and reason have been married for twenty years and living the outwardly conventional life in an unconventional family. And yes, it is a family.
Each of the women gave birth to a child with the same anonymous sperm donor, except the daughter having now reached 18 and the son 15 no longer want him to be anonymous. And thus a tangled web is weaved, and thus a smart and all-so modern comedy is delivered.
Mark Ruffalo performs, shall we say, as the sperm donor who’s about to discover he has two teen-age children (played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) waiting for him on the other side of those Hollywood Hills.
It’s a street-smart comedy set in the L.A. suburbs. The characters are flawed like real human beings are and may do dumb things from time to time (as human beings are prone to do), but none of them are dumb, which is quite a refreshing change from so many summer comedies, such as “Grown Ups,” where almost no one has an I.Q. higher than their SUV’s gas mileage.
“The Kids Are All Right” is simply one of the best gay movies ever made, and achieves this by avoiding almost all the worn out clichés that dominate so many gay films. And let’s be honest, most gay films are pretty predictable, thus disproving the stereotype: “all homos are creative and oh so witty.”
This film is genuinely funny, finding its humor in our universal ability to f*ck things up in small and big ways, and the far less universal response of forgiving and moving on. The laughter grows out of real life and recognizable characters, and not the caricatures of camp or the forced jokes of situation comedy. And the gay film clichés it avoids are pronounced:
(1) No homosexual dies in this film, which can happen even in the best of gay movies, such as “Brokeback Mountain,” “A Single Man,” and “Milk.”
(2) No one is just coming out or just being discovered as gay, which has to be the most overworked plot point in the canon of gay cinema.
(3) No one is being persecuted or rejected for being gay, as in “The Fox,” “The Children’s Hour,” or any of the several attempts to film the life of Oscar Wilde.
(4) No one is dying of a disease or having their children taken away from them. Those movies seem to operate on the dubious theory that if we can make straights cry for homosexuals they will like us better.
(5) No one in this story is pretending to be gay or mistaken for gay, or the reversal, pretending to be straight or mistaken for straight. Think of the myriad comedies that have plowed that rut into the ground.
(6) And no one who’s gay is unhappy about being gay. They might be unhappyabout other things, but they aren’t selfloathing. Think “The Boys in the Band”and its self-breeding cousins.
What they are doing in this exceptional movie is holding up a mirror to situations that most of us face at some time or another whether we’re gay or straight, male or female, young or old.
And they’re doing all of this with consummate skill. There isn’t a weak performance in it, not in the leading players or even the bit parts. In a just world, Annette Bening’s name will be locked and loaded as a Oscar nominee for 2010.
Remember also the name of Lisa Cholodenko, the openly gay woman who directed and co-wrote this movie. She’s a major talent whose future work should be followed.
This year has been anemic on really good movies for real grown-ups, but now with “Inception” and this comedy-drama, we surely have two that will be on many a ten best lists.
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