The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Directed by Lisa Cholodenko
Produced by Jeff Levy-Hinte, Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz, Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Philippe Hellmann
Written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
Starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
Music by Carter Burwell, Nathan Larson, Craig Wedren
Cinematography Igor Jadue-Lillo
Editing by Jeffrey M. Werner
Distributed by Alliance Films, Focus Features
Release date July 30, 2010
Running time 107 minutes
Budget $4 million
Box office $34,705,850

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a married lesbian couple living in California. They have each given birth to a child using the same sperm donor. Nic, an obstetrician, is the primary breadwinner and the stricter parent, while Jules, a housewife who is starting up a landscape design business, is more laid back.

The younger child Laser (Josh Hutcherson) wants to find his sperm donor but has to be 18 to do so. He begs his 18-year-old sister Joni (Mia Wasikowska) to contact the sperm bank and determines that Paul (Mark Ruffalo) is the donor. The three meet. Joni is impressed by his bohemian lifestyle, and Paul is enthusiastic about being in their lives. Joni swears Laser to secrecy as she does not want to upset their mothers. However, Jules and Nic find out and invite Paul over to dinner. When Jules reveals she has a landscape business, Paul asks her to landscape his back garden. Jules agrees, although Nic does not like the idea.

While working for Paul, Jules likes that he appreciates her work in contrast to Nic who, Jules feels, never supported her career. Jules impulsively kisses Paul one afternoon, and they end up in bed together, beginning an affair.

Jules and the kids start spending more time with Paul. Nic believes Paul undermines her authority over the children, for example, by giving Joni a ride on his motorcycle, which Nic has forbidden, and suggesting she give Joni more freedom. After a heated argument with Jules, Nic suggests they all have dinner at Paul’s house to ease the tension. Nic relaxes and makes a connection with Paul over their mutual love for Joni Mitchell. However, Nic discovers traces of Jules’s hair in Paul’s bathroom and bedroom. When they return home, Nic confronts Jules. At first, Jules denies it but then admits to the affair. Nic is devastated, but Jules insists she is not in love with Paul and has not turned straight; she just wanted to be appreciated. The household becomes very tense with Jules sleeping on the couch. The children are angry at Jules and Paul. Paul thinks he has fallen for Jules and suggests she leave Nic, bring the kids, and come live with him. Jules declines, disgusted with Paul’s lack of understanding about their relationship.

The night before Joni leaves home to go to college, Paul turns up at the house. Nic angrily confronts him, calling him an interloper, and tells him that if he wants a family, he should make one of his own. Rejected, Paul watches the kids from outside through the window, trying to get their attention, but they, too, turn away. Later that night, Jules tearfully admits her errors to her family and begs their forgiveness. The next morning, the family takes Joni off to college. While Nic and Jules together hug Joni to say goodbye, they also affectionately touch each other. During the ride home, Laser tells his mothers that they should not break up because they are too old. Jules and Nic giggle, and the film ends with them smiling at each other and holding hands.

> Filmed in 23 days (in Los Angeles in July 2009), because the creators had rushed post-production so it would be finished in time for Sundance.
> The film was greenlit for 2006, but Lisa Cholodenko postponed the project when she fell pregnant.
> Much of the film is based upon co-writer and director Lisa Cholodenko’s relationship with her partner Wendy, who both had a son by a sperm donor. Cholodenko dedicated the film to them.

Lisa and [co-writer] Stuart [Blumberg] did a great job of capturing these characters and the essence of who they were. They worked on it for almost five years. For me I just played the part that was on the page. Laser is a teen who’s trying to figure out who he is and how he fits into the world, and I know I identified with that. I’m pretty sure that most teenagers out there, and adults who have ever been teenagers, can identify with that as well.

The comedy was written, but it wasn’t obvious. It wasn’t jokes, anything like that. It was done a lot with the editing, the awkward pauses and cutting around to looks. It’s cool because it finds the humor in real life. Even in the most tragic situations, funny things happen. That’s something that makes it more realistic and something that everyone can relate with.

I haven’t heard any feedback from same sex families, but I’ve heard feedback from straight and gay people and also single parents families. And they all have been very gracious to see a film depicting a family that happens to be same sex marriage. So I’ve actually been really happy with the response we’ve been getting. It’s been very, very positive and supportive of it.

I was very excited when I first read the script, and it was nothing like anything I’d read before. It was so real. I thought the relationship between all the family members, the dialogue, just everything seemed so real to me, and that was a big draw.

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