Thursday, August 26, 2010
Oof. Turns out I feel the same about Lisa Cholodenko's directorial work, chronologically, as I do about Chuck Palahniuk's novels: great, meh, awful. First we have High Art, which was great, and which gave us Ally Sheedy and Patricia Clarkson in mesmerizing roles. Then we got Lauren Canyon, which allowed us to gaze at Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale and Frances McDormand, but which was overall kind of a snooze. Now we have The Kids Are All Right, which could and should have been amazing. But it's not. It's actually sort of offensively not good, and left me with pangs of sadness for the cast, all of whom are way better than this.
Before we get into anything that matters, let's chat about Yaya De-freaking-Costa, who managed to get a role here, lucky skinny bitch, since ALL her scenes are with Mark Ruffalo, and in one of those scenes they are both naked. I remember this Yaya from her decidedly less refined days on America's Next Top Model, where all she did was complain about her skin, cry because a hat was not genuine kente cloth, and spit food onto the floor. So watching her try to emote on film was difficult for me.
Now let's talk about why I was upset. I went into the theater thinking that I was about to watch a quiet funny movie about a lesbian couple processing emotions and dealing with the entry of their sperm donor, with whom they have each had a child, into their lives. Not asking too much, is it??? Turns out, this is a movie where THINGS HAPPEN THAT THROW EVERYONE'S LIVES INTO CHAOS, AND SPEECHES ARE MADE AND LIVES IRREVOCABLY DAMAGED. Not what I signed on for. And, I wish, not something that this cast would have signed on for, either. Mark Ruffalo, who has been described by people (my mom) as "able to just look at a woman, and her clothes fall off," is done wrong here. The sperm bank industry is not done much of a favor, either. To go into detail about either of those statements would be to ruin a lot of the movie, and I don't want to do that.
I get that the adults in the movie are written to act like children on purpose, but the extent to which they all needed a time out in the corner chair was unbelievable. Annette Bening's Nic, a Type-A personality doctor/wino, gave me zero reason to like her or sympathize with her once during the entire movie. Well, she does give one pretty good speech, railing against things like composting and hemp milk, but that's it. Julianne Moore's Jules, a lost soul with a self-esteem problem, khaki shorts, hiking boots and an unplaceable accent, fares a little better. Ruffalo's Paul, who is the antagonist in no small way here, is 10 kinds of awesome, a guy I would certainly have a beer and sex with. The kids, played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, are, as the title suggests, all right, and definitely more grown up than either of their moms, which, as you will see from Laser's (Hutcherson's) introduction, is not saying a whole lot...
All that said, though, I managed to see the movie and take in chips and a seltzer, all for under 10 buckaroos. Thanks, Brooklyn.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
This is an unsettling film. It's a multiple-character study of 4 families in the suburbs, all dealing with the fallout of a terrible accident. It is not a "look at how crazy those suburban-ites are" film. The pathos associated with suburban living are there, and the infidelities and teenage anxiety, but they have been stripped to their essence. The screenplay is harsh and unforgiving, at times baffling, but isn't life sometimes, and aren't people? Don't people go off the rails every now and then and act in inexplicable ways, creating chaos for miles? Yes, they do, and so they do here.
There are so many storylines happening all at once in this film, overlapping and interlocking, it would be impossible to list them all. Glenn Close is a family matriarch, chattering away to her comatose son (Joshua Jackson, a small-town rock star in flashbacks, and the film's anchor) while ignoring her daughter, who is very much in need of attention. Tomboy Kristin Stewart is Sam, caught in an unlucky situation with a grieving gardener. The genius Patricia Clarkson, Sam's mother, brings her signature spark to a frenzied role, and Dermot Mulroney shows his acting chops with a slow unraveling. Everyone is connected, everyone is affected, and nobody is really okay.