No, The Kids Are All Right is not that documentary about The Who, as the name might have you thinking. That would be The Kids Are Alright from back in 1979. One look at the photo above will dispel any of those notions. Instead, this is a light drama that could have been called My Two Moms. Plus it left us with a much better impression of Mark Ruffalo than he'd left us with his Sundance directorial debut, Sympathy For Delicious. Here, he turns in a solid performance, along with some powerful acting from Julianne Moore and Annette Bening who shine as the two halves of a couple whose world is shaken when their kids meet their biological father.
Joni (Mia Wasikowska of the upcoming Alice in Wonderland) is 18 years old, and therefore old enough to find out who her biological sperm-donor father is. After continual pestering by her brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson from Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant) she makes the call, and the two of them are introduced to the cool and exciting Paul (Mark Ruffalo), whose sperm was used to impregnate both Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore). However, he's also the monkey wrench that gets tossed right into the middle of this family.
Where The Kids Are All Right really succeeds is in showing how a lesbian couple is no different than a gay or a heterosexual couple. They have the exact same hangups and foibles that we do. There's infidelity, mistrust, suspicion, fight, love, hope, fear, a worry that your partner is falling out of love with you, and everything else that goes along with a relationship. There's no agenda here, showing us that gay families are any better or are any worse than straight couples. In fact, when Nic and Jules suspect their son may be having gay sex, they're concerned. Not because they think it's wrong and are worried about what he might face later in life, they just think he might be too young.
Nic and Jules are fairly average, with Nic pulling in the wages as a doctor, and Jules just starting a very small landscaping company. Jules struggles for recognition from Nic, and they both have their hands full with their kids. It's when Joni puts that call into the sperm bank that everything changes. She and Laser meet Paul, who owns his own restaurant in Los Angeles, farms organic produce, rides a motorcycle, and is the very definition of cool. Joni is immediately taken by him, but Laser bristles around Paul who shuns things like team sports.
One thing worth noting is that Nic and Jules watch gay porn (with men) when they want to fool around, and this porn features beefy men dressed up like motorcycle cops. Although they prefer them a bit less "shaved," it's their go-to video for alone time. Paul shows up, bearing plenty of hair, and he also dresses a bit like a motorcycle cop. It's a bit too much for Jules, and it isn't long before she's bonding with Paul as well, albeit in a much different way than Laser and Joni.
This breaks things up in two ways: Nic begins feeling estranged from her family, and that she's losing everyone to Paul, and Paul finds his own parental feelings awakened, which fly in the face of his "Live and let live" hands-off policy towards life. He's a hippie drifter, who never had plans to settle down, but now he's turned around and confused. Always content to float between commitments, Paul finds himself drawn to Jules, and to the children as well. Unfortunately, and selfishly, he doesn't think about the consequences of his actions.
Bening, Moore, and Ruffalo all turn in powerful performances in this story that veers from the Hollywood predictability track. Director Lisa Cholodenko, who co-wrote the script with Stuart Blumberg, has created a realistic family film for the times we live in. Everyone could probably spot themselves in one of these characters, worrying about their own relationships, or realizing that life might not be what they expected.