Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right is a movie that thrives on moments — some are the result of a fantastic set of actors interacting gracefully with one another and some are the result of the loosely paced editing that allows for a facial expression or turn of phrase to cap off a scene that could have been cut earlier.
The film’s relaxed approach makes for enough wonderful moments that it coalesces into a worthwhile film. The story and script follow familiar territory and can be fairly uninspired, but Cholodenko’s approach to camerawork and editing, along with a host of great performances, makes up for it.
The film stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as Nic and Jules, a couple who’ve had two children together — Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). Each has some hazily sketched out details of a personal life — Nic’s a doctor, Jules is a free spirit trying to start a landscaping business, Joni’s about to go to college for something, Laser is dealing with peer pressure — but a lot of these elements seem more like ticked off boxes on a screenplay checklist than anything.
Joni and Laser are interested in finding their biological father, and they locate him through the sperm bank where their moms were inseminated. He turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an easygoing organic restaurant owner who takes the news in stride, and finds himself increasingly interested in becoming a part of this family’s life — and ultimately, going too far as he initiates an affair that seems like a rather unimaginative way to introduce conflict into the middle act of the film.
And yet, though it stumbles often from a story perspective, the film is mostly an immense pleasure to watch, with every one of the five lead actors slipping into their respective roles with a glove-like comfort.
Ruffalo and Moore aren’t doing anything terribly different than plenty of their previous roles, but both are masterfully communicative actors who can unassumingly command a scene with the subtlest of expressions. Wasikowska is an extremely charming presence, and here, that charm mixes wonderfully with an endearing awkwardness. Hutcherson possesses pitch perfect comic timing, and communicates angst without going over the top.
But it’s Bening who stands head and shoulders above the rest with a tangibly real performance that should finally net her an Oscar win. Her character feels the most fleshed out because Bening plays a person who is damaged, insightful, hurting and beautiful all at once.
On paper, the film might appear to be just mediocre, but its winning and natural moments make it more than just all right.
The Blu-ray Disc
The Kids Are All Right is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer has a nice bright color palette that one expects from a new film of this type. The image is consistently sharp, with a fine layer of film grain on the top. Colors and skin tones are vibrant and stable, and though it appears as if the contrast has been boosted occasionally, it’s not bothersome in any significant way.
The audio is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that’s more than capable of handling the dialogue-heavy front channel noise that extends into the surrounds with some gentle ambient sound.
This is an underwhelming package when it comes to extras, although I didn’t find myself all that eager to dig into anything else when the film ended. It pretty much stands on its own. The only really worthwhile supplement is an audio commentary by Cholodenko. The rest is extremely brief EPK-type stuff, with featurettes on the script, production and creating a cinematic family. None run longer than four minutes.
The Bottom Line
The Kids Are All Right is a charming and pleasant film, and its strongly executed moments ensure that it’s one worth revisiting.