1.) Julianne Moore. 2.) An airtight, carefully constructed script. And 3.) the simple fact of representation–an ordinary family that happens to be headed by two women–on the big screen.
A couple friends, my partner, and I joined a sold-out theatre last night for Lisa Chodolenko’s The Kids are All Right. Man, has this movie been gathering momentum (and not in the kitschy NOM way). The Kids are All Right raked in more than a million dollars over the two weeks it’s been in theaters. In Cambridge, where we saw the movie, it was playing on two screens, both sold out. I haven’t been to a theater that crowded since the release of Brokeback Mountain.
There’s obvious parallels between the two movies. Both movies have a gay couple as the focus; both movies boast major movie stars. And though they may seem like indie flicks, The Kids are All Right and Brokeback Mountain manage to also reach for mainstream ambition.
But must mainstream also mean playing into tired old tropes? Stereotypes about lesbians seem particularly jarring in this film by and about gay women (e.g. watching gay porn, over-processing their emotions, transforming from a lesbian to a straight woman by the right man). Though there may be some truth in these stereotypes, portraying them without also questioning them provides fodder for uncritical audiences. When Moore’s character, a lesbian who has two teenage children with her lover, suddenly throws herself at a man, you can’t help but let out a little groan. Why couldn’t she fall for another woman? Why does it seem like all it takes to “cure” the character of her gayness is a handsome man?
Still, for its faults, The Kids are All Right struck a chord for me and my friends. Everyone in the theater, in fact, seemed to laugh (or cringe) as the movie hit all the right notes–comparing marriage to a Russian novel, watching the college-bound daughter awkwardly seduce her crush. Chodolenko takes what’s ordinary in urban gay life (and which many of us take for granter) and uses it to frame her story of an ordinary American family. Good stuff.
Go support this little film that could.