Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.


Julianne Moore and Annette Bening struggle with a different side of parenthood in The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right finds an interesting balance between the revolutionary and the conventional. In a way, it's a fairly typical family comedy-drama. But it just so happens that the family is headed by two moms.

The movie is charming and slightly annoying, expertly made but a little too slick and enamored of its unconventionality. "He just seems so self-satisfied," says Nic, Annette Bening's sharp-tongued doctor played, after meeting Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the free-spirited restaurateur whose sperm donation fathered the kids she has with wife Jules (Julianne Moore). She could be talking about the movie, which simultaneously revels in and rails against political correctness.

Co-written by director Lisa Cholodenko and ex-Clevelander Stuart Blumberg, the story is set in motion by the couple's daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska), who's turning 18 and old enough to contact donor Paul on behalf of younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson), who seems to yearn for a father.

The kids are initially captivated by the easygoing, unconventional Paul, who dropped out of college, grows organic vegetables, and rides a cool BMW motorcycle. Nic mistrusts this stranger ("You're an interloper!" she tells him), but reluctantly allows him into the family circle, with dramatic and predictable results.

The Kids Are All Right relies heavily on sitcom tropes, like when Nic and Jules catch Laser (who they think might be gay) watching an all-male porn video they have stashed in their nightstand. But even this goofiness is forgivable, because the movie offers unusually realistic views of female sexuality. When the baffled Laser asks his moms why they watch male-on-male porn, Jules' elaborate, embarrassed explanation sounds drawn from real life ("human sexuality is complex ...").

This is not a lesbian movie designed to titillate; it's a human drama about relationships and evolving definitions of family. Nic and Jules' problems are like those in any marriage (Jules' aimless career, Nic's controlling personality and excessive wine tippling). That idea is brought home when Nic tells Paul, who has thoughts of running off with one of the women, "This is not your family. This is my family."

None of this would work half as well without the perfect casting and superb performances. Ruffalo's woozy, beatific demeanor has seldom been used better. Bening is a kaleidoscope of toughness and vulnerability. And Moore is affecting as the conflicted Jules. Igor Jadire-Lillo's skillful cinematography caresses Bening's facial lines and Moore's freckles, underscoring another of the movie's endearing qualities: It's a romance about middle-aged people — not very glamorous, but beautiful nonetheless.

Send feedback to

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Latest in Screens

More by Pamela Zoslov

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


Staff Pick Events

  • Season's Bleedings @ Capitol Theatre

    • Sat., Dec. 4
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show @ Cedar Lee Theatre

    • First Saturday of every month

© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation