18 July 2010

Review: The Kids Are All Right

Genre: Comedy

Let me write plainly here, lest I misstate my primary conviction about directress' Lisa Cholodenko's rompous The Kids Are All Right: Ms. Bening is flawless. Yes, you read that adjective correctly: flawless. Rare be it the time that I bestow upon an actor from my lofty perch of this tiny blog an encomium so whole that I must use terms conveying perfection, now is such a time. Behold, all who may still have a lingering doubt about the aptitude and strength of this actress who has delivered stellar performances before (e. g., in American Beauty, 1999), the testament to an undying magnitude that confirms her as one of the greatest in her profession who is still professing. Truly, I have never seen Ms. Bening better, more confident and fuller in her actions and emotions, than I have seen her here, in this charmingly cool and moderne Summer film.

Now, what else is there to say about it.... Ms. Moore, playing Ms. Bening's spouse in the film, was wonderful for the most part as is normal for her, though for the rest of her part she did seem to be fumbling a bit with her character's coherence and thus upsetting the rhythm of her words and actions. Nevertheless, overall she was in control. Completing the adult trio, Mr. Ruffalo held his own against the women by playing his rollicking and somewhat desultory sperm-donor character loosely, jangly, and somewhat stuntedly - as were apt for the type. However, he too seemed to teeter at times on the verge of uncertainty and there, in his attempts to keep his character constantly moving lest like a target it be sighted and pinned down, he loses a bit of the credibility that he as a figure should otherwise have had. The two younger actors, playing the two catalytic kids of the title and the plot, react assuredly to the frequently dilemmatic tensions, caused in large part by their relatively puerile parents; they were well cast.

Beyond the acting, the film did suffer a bit from tendentiously spotty direction by Ms. Cholodenko, who though the brilliant writer of this work seemed at times not to know how to best make her jewelry shine, if you will. For prime example, instead of letting the focus of the film reside outside Mr. Ruffalo's character and exclusively inside the four-membered family where the final scenes reveal the heart of the film is, she voyages out, at times bringing Mr. Ruffalo's character to the center of the narrative and thus extending to that character a degree of empathy and provision that belies a later absolute dismission of him from the party. While one may argue, as does the family, so does the film; but such an argument fails to capture the perspective of the camera, which only once crosses the barrier, from third-person external to first-person omniscient in its plot-narration, and so such an argument lacks a consistent thread of support under the entirety of the production of the film to an extent that denies its plausibility.

Still, The Kids Are All Right but for these tepidly remarkable foils leaves the audience a bit richer than it found it initially. The writing, as I've already said, is concise and fun and the costumes were quite cool. And need I say any more about Ms. Bening's leading performance?

Grade: A-/B+, great Summer fare.

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