Ordinary People is the name of a 1980 movie about an upper-middle clear family in the Midwest. Nominated for all the major Academy Awards, it won several, including Best Picture. Robert Redford won as Best Director.
I mention Ordinary People because that could also be the title of Lisa Cholodenko’s new movie The Kids Are All Right. The people in The Kids Are All Right live in an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood. They wear ordinary clothes, and it’s disorienting to see such glamorous actresses as Annette Bening and Julianne Moore look so ordinary. Even their hair is ordinary.
In fact, you could say the ordinariness of the house, the clothing, and the hair is the point since Bening and Moore play lesbians. They play lesbians in a long-term committed relationship. Each of them has had a child by a sperm donor, and they are entering middle age, not very comfortably. They are also dealing with teenage angst, also not very comfortably.
They have the usual problems of potential alcoholism, and genuine infidelity. To be sure, the infidelity is all the more shocking, since Julianne Moore's character has pretty vivid sex with the sperm donor himself.
The Kids Are All Right is an enjoyable movie, and I’m glad that I saw it, for multiple reasons. I would watch Bening and Moore in just about anything. My reservation about the movie is that it succeeds too well. It’s too ordinary.
Redford’s movie constantly plays on the contrast between appearance and reality. His movie gains dramatic power because things look ordinary, although they’re not. In The Kids Are All Right, things look ordinary, and in fact they are ordinary. The larger point is that lesbian marriages are a lot like straight marriages. “Marriage is hard,” Moore's character says in her climatic speech.