5 Lessons in Adulthood from 'The Kids Are All Right'

11/29/2010 11:16 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

OK, folks, I've got another movie recommendation for you.

It's a small-ish indie film by director Lisa Cholodenko called "The Kids Are All Right," which has been out in the States for a while now, but only recently opened over here in the land of the free and the brave. (Whoops! That's the U.S.! I meant the land that spawned the land of the free and the brave -- must get my history straight.)

As always, when I recommend movies or books, it's because I think that they have something profound to say about adulthood.

So, too, with this film. Here are five reasons you should rush out to see it if you haven't done so already:

1) It's about marriage. The film centers around two women, played with just the right mix of pluck and vulnerability by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, who've been married to each other for 18-plus years. And though it's sort of a film about gay marriage (see #4), I wouldn't say that that's the central theme. Rather, this film is about what I've referred to before as middle marriage, that particular stage of life when you've been married for a while and the kids are no longer babies and maybe you've had a career change or a move or two, and you're trying to figure out what it's all about. And Cholodenko (who also co-wrote the script) gets that stage of life perfectly: the yearnings, the frustrations, the mis-communications, the boredom, the anxiety and, most importantly, the weary and imperfect love that underlies it. I guarantee that if you've been married or in a long-term committed relationship for more than five years, you will watch this movie and find yourself nodding in recognition.

2) It's about infidelity. I give nothing away by revealing that the movie's central drama concerns what happens when the man who donated sperm to this couple many years earlier so that they could have kids reappears and completely upends their family life. Lots of movies have dealt with the topic of marital infidelity, which is, as I've noted before, not only widespread but, in some ways, entirely predictable. (I always feel like I need to justify that claim, so here's some scientific evidence about why monogamy isn't natural.) What I liked about this film was the way that the topic was broached. The cheating didn't stem primarily from feelings of boredom or revenge or even idle sexual attraction. It stemmed from the desire to be recognized and appreciated. Which struck me as so... honest.

3) It's about parenting teens. Again, there are loads of movies about parenting. What sets this one apart is that it focuses very specifically on parenting teenagers, which, in light of our cultural obsession with babies (thank you, Erika Jong!), can sometimes go missing. The movie not only addresses the classic theme of "letting go" ( the couples' eldest child is about to go off to college), but also how difficult it can be when you don't approve of the company your kids are keeping. And Lord knows I could relate to that.

4) It's about gay marriage. OK, I realize that I just said that this movie wasn't primarily about gay marriage. And it isn't. But I very much liked that rather than seeing another film exploring some aspect of a long-term heterosexual relationship, this one brought us inside a homosexual one. In a country where we are still -- improbably -- trying to figure out if everyone should have the right to marry whomever the heck they want, having a mainstream picture focus in on a lesbian couple with kids who look (gasp) just like every other couple with kids is culturally important.

5) It also stars Mark Ruffalo. 'Nuff said.