The Kids Are All Right… just not sure about the parents

February 26, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

The Oscars are upon us — so here’s my 2 cents on one of the Best Picture nominees…

I’m well aware that as a pop culture junkie and a gay man, I’m supposed to have fallen all over myself for “The Kids Are All Right.” The film has gotten pretty much across-the-board rave reviews (a whopping 94% from Rotten Tomatoes, which usually doesn’t happen for anything but sci-fi, anime or movies about Facebook).

I had every intention of loving it. I’m a longtime fan of both Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, and Mark Rufalo has been growing on me (although I’m still not sure he’s going to make a good Bruce Banner — isn’t Banner supposed to be a genius?) And it’s about a same-sex-parented family for pete’s sake, so what’s not to love?

While I did thoroughly enjoy Bening’s acting, as well as that of their kids, I took issue with two major plot points. SPOILERS AHEAD…

A: Not only did Moore’s character cheat on her wife, but with a dude. Help me out, my lesbian sisters — how often does that really happen? Because her team-switching seemed like manipulative, overly-dramatic bullshit. It would have had just as much impact had the affair been with a woman, and been more realistic.

B: Okay, so the kids sought out their biological father. It happens. But not only does he insert himself into one of their moms, but also into the kids’ lives. I realize this is probably more believable than issue A. But it was personally disturbing, as I’m a father of an adopted son, and have my own struggles with the existence of my son’s birth parents. In our case they are known, so he’ll never have to sneak off to discover who they are. But the thought of a person who’s not JJ’s parent acting like one bugs the bejesus out of me.

However, as I’m writing this, I realize all parents have to deal with their influence being supplanted, especially as their kids become teenagers. I know in my own teendom there were many, many people and things higher on my list than my parents — my friends, the cool (and cute) Humanities teacher, Adam & the Ants, a bottle of Boone’s Farm.

I know these aren’t really cinematic criticisms — overall the film is well-made. What bothers me is that I had such high hopes for this mainstream film to show the world that same-sex parented families could be happy, healthy and normal. It was frustrating then to see the representations of my two most precious relationships — that of my partner and my child, shown as fragile and tumultuous.

I suppose what I need to remember is that fragile and tumultuous, deceptive and adulterous is pretty much how Hollywood does things. Seriously, who wants to see a movie about a loving, well-adjusted family of gays and their adopted children? I guess I do.

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2 responses to “The Kids Are All Right… just not sure about the parents”

  1. I had a similar problem with point A, but I got over it, and here’s why? 1) I think the moment that the affair became inevitable was the moment when Julianne noticed some of her kids’ habits in their dad. Remember that? It wasn’t so much that she was cheating on her wife with ‘some dude,’ but with the father of her children. And 2) when he calls her saying that perhaps there’s something permanent about the relationship, and her “Uh, I’m gay” response. Somehow, that made it all okay with me. As for point B, I’m not a parent and probably wasn’t as bugged by that as you were – but that’s where Annette’s (totally righteous) indignation comes from, so it’s not like it wasn’t addressed.

    I saw the movie before all the hype, and really loved it. I know that most of my friends don’t share my enthusiasm, but I think that might have been all about expectations, and that I had none walking in.

    • Brent M. Almond says:

      Eric:
      Apologies for the slow response, but we were on our first post-Daddyhood vacation. 🙂

      I didn’t mention the fact that these issues were both resolved in the movie because it wouldn’t have supported my theme! 🙂 I was glad to see Annette claim her family (in response to B) and if it wasn’t for issue A, we wouldn’t have gotten the best scene of acting in the whole movie — when Annette came back from the bathroom and stared around in silence at everyone. I held my breath during the whole moment!

      After further reflection… what bugged me most about the affair was that I wanted this movie to be a perfect representation to the world of what a gay-parented family could be. When Julianne’s character cheated with a man, I imagined it not only made her marriage seem not real, but also her sexual orientation. (What I should realize though, is that very few of the folks who don’t consider gay relationships valid will have seen this movie anyway…)

      And as for Mark Rufalo’s character (why can’t I remember any of their names?!?) interjecting himself into the family — that was really bringing to light my own insecurities. I know in my heart I’m JJ’s Dad, but in the back of my head (and in reality) there will always be 2 people who are his biological parents. Something I can never be.

      So to sum up (whew) I realize my negative reactions were a result of my own fears and anxieties being played out on screen. What this illuminates is a continuing need on my part to be there very best husband and father I can be. That’s going to be the best example to the world and to my family I’ll ever be able to come up with.

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