In my discussion with director Lisa Cholodenko about her new film, The Kids are All Right -- about a sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) abruptly entering the lives of a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) whose children were spawned from his seed -- I mentioned to her that the tone felt distinctly Southern Californian. Just to be clear: Despite my typical, knee-jerk attitude as a chauvinistic New Yorker, that comment wasn't meant as a slap. It's just that there's something in the trappings of the characters' lives, in their careers (Ruffalo plays a locavorish restaurateur; Moore is a landscaper), and in the overall sunny feel of the film even as relationships are being fractured and reassembled, that left me feeling that, though this story could really have taken place anywhere, it couldn't have played out quite as it does in this particular setting.
Which is good, I think. The left coast locale provides context to the way Bening and Moore style themselves as models of a progressive, twenty-first century couple, and a affords a certain, reassuring optimism as the complications thrown in the characters' paths become increasingly challenging. As with her previous film, High Art, Cholodenko knows how to dig under the skin of modern relationships, without shortchanging her characters or overselling the drama. Turns out it's not suprising that this is coming out in the summer -- Kids is a cool counterpoint to all the massive explosions and CG aliens that have invaded theaters elsewhere.
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