So this past weekend me, BioMom and Cousin got out to our local indie theater and saw The Kids are All Right.
Warning: Plot spoilers below.
We had read LesbianDad's initial review beforehand (and her follow-up to people's skeptical responses) and were definitely willing to give the movie a shot.
Here's my review: it was alright.
There were tons of funny, lighthearted, insightful moments.
I loved, for example, how Joni (the eighteen year old daughter) referred to her parents in the singular: "moms". "As in, I don't want to hurt Moms feelings."
It was also really interesting and exciting to see our lives (only eight years from now... REALLY???) projected on the big screen: two moms with an eighteen-year-old daughter heading off to college and a fifteen-year-old son, both of whom are spending some time questioning their lives as kids conceived through donor sperm, with two moms. And, now that one is eighteen, they actually have the option to perhaps meet the man who donated the sperm that, in fact, enabled their very existence.
At one point the son, Laser, says to his sister something to the effect of "Respect. Without HIM we wouldn't be HERE."
The big hubub about the movie, however, is the affair that Jules (Julianne Moore) has with the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo).
Despite LesbianDad's urging that the film is "breathtakingly subversive" I was and am still extraordinarily disappointed that Lisa Cholodenko (writer/director) chose the heterosexual affair (however plausible. I fully recognize that sexuality is fluid) as the main point of tension and conflict in the story.
Of course, it was well done. As LesbianDad pointed out, the scene where Nic realizes that her partner of 20 plus years is having an affair with this "interloper" is absolutely breathtaking both from the actor's perspective, but also the director's.
Even if you've never experienced anything like what she experiences right there on screen for your visual pleasure, your heart's gonna be in knots. The scene is that good.
So that's the thing. That is what you take away from the film. It is that large of a part of the story. Even though there are tons of perhaps "subversive" subtexts (a bit of roughhousing with the son's jerk-of-a-friend's dad leaves you wondering if he actually longs for a father and then, perhaps, the astute viewer realizes that the father doesn't turn out to be much of a role model to this impulsive, disrespectful, drug-using friend) you don't walk away with those messages. You walk away thinking about the affair first and foremost, and that it was a heterosexual affair secondly.
I guess maybe that's the point. Not that it was a movie ABOUT a family headed by a lesbian couple. Not that it was about kids coming of age and dealing with their desire to get in touch with the sperm donor.
Sometimes I think that when I look back on my intellectual life, that all I will see is that I've made the point over and over again that we're just like you. That gay and lesbian families really aren't any different than heterosexual families.* And maybe that will be an important outcome and maybe that's what Cholodenko is trying to say.
It's just that it seemed unnecessary. There was plenty of conflict to be had in that situation. Wouldn't it have been far more interesting and creative for her to explore almost any other of the potentially awkward and conflict-ridden relationships in the group rather than the trite lesbian-really-needs-a-man stereotype even if she does ultimately dismiss him and return to her long-term-lover?
Oh, and it didn't help that the sex scenes with him were better too.
*I'm working on a research project right now and although we don't have any real results yet per se, I suspect that that's what they'll say.