The Kids Are All Right

The kids are all right, the parents…not so much. Paul’s Defense.

I walked out of the theater last night not quite sure what to make of ‘The Kids Are All Right.’ I knew that the acting was great, for it was the kind that always inspires me as an actor whenever I witness it. Annette Bening’s performance in particular was so exceptional that it reminded me of the immense power an actor can have in telling a captivating and potentially emotional story–the kind, crudely put, that makes you forget that it is in fact an actor onscreen. Julianne Moore portrays her character appropriately too, I think; strangely reminiscent of a lost and scared puppy, or some kid in her late teens struggling to grow up, unable to find herself.

It is impossible for me to review this film, however, without writing of the film’s implications regarding right and wrong. The theme of responsibility, after all, is quite prevalent in the story; therefore situations arise in which things can go wrong and people can let other people down. The two main characters are a lesbian couple, Nic and Jules (Bening and Moore), who take on a substantial degree of responsibility in raising two kids by themselves.

The kids, Joni and Laser, seek out their biological father, who, as events unfold, forms a warm relationship with the two of them. Later, Jules, who is frustrated by her controlling, often bitchy wife, finds herself attracted to the father. After she advances on him (his name is Paul, by the way.) they start sleeping together. After Nic finds out about the relationship all hell breaks loose and Paul, who has evidently grown attached to the kids, is shunned by the rest of the family. As the credits rolled, I found that it was Paul’s banishment that had me somewhat resenting the film.

This is my first ‘review’ of a film. It is strange, I suppose, that the inspiration came more from the narrative aspects of the film, rather than its technical or stylistic elements. Either way, it was this resentment that motivated me enough to write it down.

I think Paul was at fault in that he took far too little consideration for the welfare of a family, let alone one that he apparently had come to care about. But I feel that it ends there. He is not, by any means, a bad man. He was sought out by the kids, Joni and Laser. It was he who was advanced upon my Jules, not the other way around. No, he was not meant to be a father nor a role model. He knew this, and therefore made no pretenses to suggest so.

I feel almost as though he was an everyday man, happy in his ways, living a solitary yet honest life–solitary, because that is merely who he is–and then one day, he has thrown to him what is more or less bait when he gets a call from his biological daughter. It is bait that, once he bites, is unable to handle due to his nature–a nature that we’re surely meant to look down upon, but in actuality is perfectly human.

And so, because he took the bait, he ends up being brutally punished for it. He follows a mirage depicting a life in which maybe he isn’t as lonely, one in which people depend on him and vice-versa. Yet because he has difficulty adjusting to such a life, he finds the oasis to have vanished, and is therefore left thirsty and alone in an expansive and daunting desert.

Jules, however, seems to be in the clear at the end of the film. Keep in mind, she does establish the pretense that she can be a mother and live a life in which people depend on her. She is apparently susceptible to the same temptations that are part of Paul’s human nature. She was not sought out, like Paul, and thrown into a situation that called for her to adjust to anything in a matter of weeks. She was the one who started the relationship with Paul, and was just as guilty of indulging in it as he. And yet, the audience for some reason is meant to feel sympathetic towards her, whereas Paul gets left out in the cold–literally, as his last scene sadly depicts.

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