A blog about general entertainment, fashion, and movies. And some random stuff too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Movie Review: The Kids Are Alright

This is the 9th of the 10 Best Picture nominees that I've seen (and if 127 Hours is still showing at the Angelika this Saturday, I will see that, too!)!

I was not looking forward to seeing this movie at all. I had only heard bad things about it, plus Mark Ruffalo is nominated instead of Andrew Garfield in the best supporting actor category. However, I realized when I posted that I was about to watch it, that the reason I had heard only bad things about it is that ALL my movie friends are dudes. Suddenly all these lovely lady film nerds retorted and said that it was great and I needed to give it a chance. All the chatter, good and bad, made this movie much more interesting to me, and I couldn't wait to make my own decision.

One of the things I noticed right off the bat is I really loved how the ladies talk to each other and how they work through their relationship. It's so different from how men and women tend to interact with each other in relationships. Even in their differences, they seem to have extra patience with each other.At least at first.

I felt badly for Annette Bening's character. She is so structured and uptight and she doesn't mean to do harm, but she kind of isolates herself without realizing it. I felt like the characters around her weren't giving her the benefit of the doubt, either. Maybe I related to her a little bit and I understood that her picking was out of love, not out of a place of negativity. But because she is such a perfectionist, she drinks. And then when it seems everyone in her entire family is turning away from her, she drinks MORE. Then she tries to fix things and it's too late, and she finds out she's been dealt the ultimate betrayal.

Then, even though he's kind of a horrible person, I felt badly for Mark Ruffalo's character because he obviously is dying to be a father and be a husband, and is desperately trying to cram what already exists into what he wants it to be. It's not working. And it makes him look very sad. He's lived a life that has made him miss that opportunity, and not he's out of luck.

I honestly didn't think Mark Ruffalo was that special in his role. He did one really meaningful scene (his last stitch effort to talk to his daughter), but that was it. I didn't think Julianne Moore was that wonderful, either. I think they were both just fine. I thought Annette Bening's performance was genuine and subtle. I don't think she deserves to win the Oscar. I am still trying to decide if any of them deserve to be nominated at all. But if any of them had to be, I would say Bening deserves the nom.

I thought Mia Wasikaowski was much better in this than she was in Alice in Wonderland. I actually didn't want to punch her in the face the whole time, so it was a big improvement. In fact, I thought she was slightly good... It gives me hope for Jane Eyer.

Overall, the movie wasn't Oscar worthy, but wasn't awful. I actually enjoyed it and did not regret seeing it. It didn't make me cry, but it didn't feel like a waste of time either.


  1. Yeah that was my opinion afterward as well. It was good, but I don't think it really deserved to be recognized by the Academy. Actually my opinion was leaning to more "meh" than you haha but that's okay, I won't criticize you for it ;)

  2. My opinion was meh as well as annoyance at the undeserving critical acclaim the film recieved. I do disagree about Ruffalo though, as he was not only the one thing that stood out to me, but also I felt he was excellent in it. His most natural, charismatic, and overall best performance since "You Can Count On Me" I felt very underwhelmed by Bening, who everyone built up like this was some tour de force performance from her that blew the gates open. It was quite shrug-worthy to me. Overall, probably a 5/10 for me. Nothing actively bad, just a boring and meaningless film with Ruffalo as a recurring grace.

  3. Interesting you bring up the gender issue; I noticed it as well. Most men can't stand one woman talking, let alone two. I'm not surprised there is backlash against this film. Have you noticed that a year in which we get many strong female lead characters (this film, Winter's Bone, Black Swan, Mother, Tiny Furniture, Rabbit Hole, True Grit, I Am Love) and arguably have the strongest Best Actress race in years, many critics have also deemed "a weak year" for movies? I don't want to overstate things because perhaps there are valid points, but it seems increasingly that a year without a strong masculine-driven movie like The Departed or There Will Be Blood "doesn't count." The ambitions of women to be good mothers, to care for their children, to find love and keep their families together seem subordinate to the interests and ambitions of men. (I'm thinking especially of Ree Dolly's single-minded ambition in Winter's Bone or Mattie Ross' in True Grit vs. Mark Zuckerberg's in The Social Network--which does society deem more laudable and appropriate?).

  4. Kristen, I think that's a bit of an overgeneralization. As a man, I think this is the best year for film in the last ten years. I loved female driven films like Winter's Bone, True Grit, Black Swan, Rabbit Hole, Fish Tank, Blue Valentine, Another Year, Mother, etc as well as male-driven ones like Inception, Shutter Island, The Social Network, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, The Town, How To Train Your Dragon, and The Fighter. Perhaps I'm simply more open minded about gender roles in film. But I simply don't find anything about The Kids Are All Right to be cinematic, interesting, well developed, or affecting. As far as I'm concerned, it's a romantic dramedy that got a pass based on social context and an all-star cast. I cannot understand what about the film is so fantastic to people. It's boring and flat with one standout performance. I take umbrage with the notion that my negative reaction to the film boils down to being a man. As I pointed out, I loved plenty of female driven films this year. I also didn't side with Ruffalo in the film, if that's a point in your thesis. He was a guy who wanted to do the right thing but let his desires for a family and his desires for a serious romantic relationship get confused and became a usurper. I felt sorry for him, since his heart was in the right place, but he still fucked it up. But again, I take umbrage with the notion that I didn't like the film because of my gender. My contribution to the backlash (like yours to Inception's backlash :P) simply generates from frustration over the unearned critical fawning and awards season prosperity over a film I felt was mediocre at best. Again, I may be the exception to the rule re: men's reaction to the film, but that's just how I came out of it. I know plenty of men who loved the film though.

  5. Good words. I agree. Did you notice how there was a lack of overall background music? That was actually distracting to me: the silence. I guess most people wouldn't notice something like that...

  6. Actually, Kevin, I wasn't targeting you specifically at all. I'm not pinpointing anyone, nor do I want to lump all men together, which is as unfair as lumping all women together. In addition, I don't think anyone who didn't like The Kids Are All Right is anti-feminist! That would be patently ridiculous.

    What I was addressing was a pervading blogosphere notion that 2010 was somehow a disappointing year for movies. I've heard more than one person bemoan the lack of quality or of a "stand-out" Best Picture-category film.

    I also think there's an underlying cause that, like I said, "women's issues" (and I'm using that term literally and also in the Film Studies sense) are not as important or interesting on film as mens' are. For example, Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network is obviously an asshole, but he's sympathetic because he created something that is (arguably) a social good. The film posits that he's something of an artist with the computer, that his coding is his art and it's a socially acceptable expression, regardless of who he has to step over to achieve it. Contrast that with Nina Sayers in Black Swan. Nina's dancing is her art and she goes to extremes to achieve it. The parallel requires fudging perhaps because no one actually DIES in The Social Network (or loses their mind). But Nina is labeled a "crazy bitch" and her contribution to her art form--to attain perfection for the ballet audience, and by association, the movie audience--is discredited. Yes, she created something beautiful, but she lost her mind in the process.

    "Women's issues" films are always problematic, especially when sexuality is concerned, which partially explains the controversy and backlash behind Black Swan and The Kids Are All Right. Ree Dolly, who is never sexualized, has been virtually ignored as an exemplary 2010 character, worthy of discussion and analysis.

    (Or so it seems to me.)

  7. told you it was good! i loved their relationship too because it was so real! i think julianne moore was the most dynamic performance of everyone. ruffalow snatched his nomination from garfield and i am still scratching my head as to how and why. very very underwhelming. but this was a pretty good lil movie!

  8. Kristen: That makes more sense. I knew you wouldn't be one to make a derp-worthy comment that all haters of The Kids Are All Right or other female driven films this year are men and thus dislike the film because thy are men. I know you're smarter than that, obviously! ;-)

    I think you have a point re: male audiences not connecting with or finding female characters like Nina, Ree, or Mattie Ross as compelling because they have very stories that are, in your words "women's issues" films. Though, speaking for myself, I find Ree Dolly, Mattie Ross, and Nina Sayers three of my favorite characters this year. Also, as I said before, best year for film in the last decade, for both mainstream and arthouse cinema. But I might be more open-minded than most male bloggers or critics ;-)

    Bottom line, I loved a good number of women's issues films this year, just definitely not this one. But I think your points are valid, especially after that clarification.

  9. I would LOVE to read a comparison contrast piece by Kristen about this very phenom. Does one exist?

  10. As one of the "movie dudes" I'm just going to throw this out there: I have no problem with female-centric movies. Sense and Sensibility is one of my rainy day movies! lol My only concern with this film is whether or not it had received the acclaim it did for social reasons, instead of actual merit. My first attempt to view it failed but I will see it eventually and hopefully I'll be able to come to an honest and unbiased opinion about it.

  11. I don't know why I'm just now seeing this, but I definitely echo things you said as well as a few other commenters.

    For me, I really liked the idea of this film. The trailer had me very excited to see it, but in the end I just felt really let down. I agree with you that Bening was the strongest, but I thought everyone else fell flat (and I actually wanted to punch Mia a lot more in this than in Alice in Wonderland.)

    ... I just finished reading Morning Movie's comment and I completely have the same concern where I think praise was for the subject rather than the actual film.

    I don't know. Maybe I'll give it a second chance some day and see if I change my mind.