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Movie Review: The Kids Are All Right

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WYSIWYG: What you see is what you get. Paul (the always great Mark Ruffalo) is a restaurateur. He names his all natural foods establishment WYSIWYGs to assure his patrons that what they see on their plates is just as it looks, nothing more, nothing less.

This philosophy extends to his character as well. He is very much an out in the open, “here I am, this is me” kind of guy, rough around the edges, ripe smelling. He has no artificial additives or preservatives. This attitude sums up the terrific new movie The Kids Are All Right as well.

It’s the story of a middle-aged lesbian couple and their two teenage children. Nothing is glossed over. We see every wrinkle and every freckle. And the movie is all the more affecting because of this.

Played by Annette Bening (in a role that should win her an Oscar) and the always willing to take a risk Julianne Moore, Nic and Jules make love while watching a “real movie.” Their son, Laser, discovers their “real movie” in a drawer and wonders why they would choose, of all movies, that “real movie.”

This passage, by the way, is frankly funny, and sure to push buttons in the audience. When I purchased my tickets, the ticket girl warned, “I have to tell you. Some people have found the movie very distasteful and have walked out.”

As if in response, my wife just said, “I still think about Paul and Jules, Nic, and their kids. I want to know what they’re doing now.” When you wear characters out of the theater and into the rest of your life like that, the movie is truly something special.

Nic and Jules have lived for many years together in relative comfort, dealing with the stuff that life dishes out day after day, each forgiving the other for her flaws, loving her all the more because of them. But ripples and waves are now appearing – all instigated by their daughter Joni.

She is an adult now and can finally obtain records about her father. Nic gave birth to Joni and Jules later to Laser. Sperm donor Paul fathered them both. The kids meet Paul at WYSIWYGs. They like him. Then he meets their moms and troubles begin.

Nic hates his “motorcycle” ways. Jules is attracted to his free spirit, a bit too much. It’s only a matter of time before feelings ache. Comfort, insecurity, trust, and doubt know no boundaries, gay, straight, or otherwise. This timely movie is so good because it is so universal.

Joni also causes her moms grief because she is now 18. She’s been a perfect daughter, a straight-A kid. And now is her time to rebel. Contacting Paul – and adoring him – is part of it, as is getting drunk. And her ride aback Paul’s motorcycle, knowing Nic’s feelings, is liberating – as such motorcycle rides in movies always are.

Mia Wasikowska plays Joni and I’ve been singing her praises all year. She was a bright spot in That Evening Sun, but unfortunately was short one character to play. She found a way to make an impression as Alice in Burton’s Wonderland even while buried under mounds of makeup and layers of visual effects

Here, she finally has a full and natural character to play. And there’s nothing to get in the way between her and us. We can simply enjoy this fine young actress in all her quirky glory. WYSIWYG in her case is wonderful indeed.

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