When a nontraditional family encounters an unexpected visitor, their world immediately turns upside down. Nic and Jules are committed lovers who conceived two children through a sperm donor. Their daughter is on the brink of going to college and their son is living the life of an average teenager. While their relationship was never perfect, the kids’ curiosity about their birth father brings Paul into their lives. Nic and Jules are both cautious about getting to know their donor, but his charming interest in the family starts to break down the structure maintained for years. Jules now is working to assist with landscaping, Joni enjoys getting to know her father and Laser continues to warm up to his friendly nature. Meanwhile, Nic continues to be standoffish and struggles with feeling a loss of control to his charm.
Starring: Julianne Moore (Jules), Annette Bening (Nic), Mark Ruffalo (Paul), Mia Wasikowska (Joni), Josh Hutcherson (Laser), Yaya DaCosta (Tanya), Kunal Sharma (Jai)
Overall the acting in this film is good but not particularly stellar. Mark Ruffalo maintains a certain coolness factor with his free-spirited, earthy way about him, but provides little range besides laid back confidence. Julianne Moore goes through the most significant changes in the film, initially quiet about her frustrations in her relationship to exploring her sexuality. Annette Bening has the strongest performance with her consistent desire to maintain control and later seeing problems the instant she tries to let her guard down. The play between Bening and Moore truly captures the challenges of longterm relationships and how the seemingly smaller differences between people become significant challenges when communication is not as open as it could be. Both kids have great supporting performances, though the movie is really about their curiosity and the effects experienced after contacting and meeting with donor father.
The interesting thing about this movie is that it does more to challenge the perception of sexuality than it does to deliver a Best Picture-worthy performance. The American people are becoming more accepting of differences in sexual identity, but there is still more hesitation and outright disapproval when considering honoring same sex couples and adoption rights for the LGBTQ community. Director Lisa Cholodenko challenges those hesitations in a few significant ways. The first is that this lesbian relationship goes through the same general experiences of a heterosexual couple, including deciding how to raise kids, fighting about personality differences, making life decisions and supporting each other’s goals. Second, the kids are truly all right. Though the name Laser is unconventional, both kids appear to be well behaved and authentic young people who are simply curious about their past. Lastly, the movie challenges people to think about sexuality as fluid. On the one hand, the infidelity of a lesbian woman having sex with a man would potentially verify for some perspectives that people naturally seek out opposite sex partners, but the reality is the issues of love, attraction and lust are much more complicated than simply seeking the opposite sex.
I liked the conversation that comes up from watching this movie, but I was not as intrigued by the action on screen as much as some of the other Oscar-nominated films for 2010. This is still a solid movie with a great concept barely explored by mainstream cinema.
Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5