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The Kids Are All Right

Director: Lisa Cholodenko

Substitute the gay partners Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore) with a straight couple and you'd have a picture perfect middle American family. There's careers, marital discord, worry about kids, bills to pay and life to live.

I'm not sure if writer/director Cholodenko is gay herself, but she does something that's both insightful and beautiful. As many conservatives should take note, gay couples are just the same as the rest of us, living in the same houses, having the same jobs and trying to raise the same kids.

Even the ill-advised affair between Jules and leading man Paul (Ruffalo) would have tongues wagging in churches about how being gay is something invented by city hipsters when we can't ignore our God-given nature, but Cholodenko merely realises that we're all different and our sexual predilections waver wildly through our lives and are subject to far more emotional jostling than just a clear cut label about being straight, gay or otherwise.

She handles such questions beautifully, never letting a lecture overshadow the story and (like other successful stories with gay characters like Show Me Love/Fucking Amal) letting you just get to know the people and smiling as you recognise your own weaknesses and insecurities in them.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how funny the whole film was. Cholodenko has a good grasp on how ridiculous and comical a lot of our concerns and foibles can be and she plays them to full comic effect in both black humour and occasional all-out, laugh-out-loud gag.

Everybody's happy in Nic and Jules' place, including their teenage kids Joni (Wasikowska, making a clever casting decision after the overstuffed commerciality of Alice in Wonderland ) and Laser. But the kids have grown curious about who their sperm-donor birth father is, and now Joni's turned 18 she'd entitled to seek him out, finding him in hippieish womaniser and organic restaurateur Paul.

But the secret can't be kept for long and when Paul and the kids start getting along, their mothers have no choice but to try and welcome him into their lives – a task met with varying degrees of success that relies on the characters and how they interact rather than straight plot.

But Cholodenko is no smug, avant-garde artiste (a stern look your way, Sofia Coppola) and there's enough plot here to give the personalities room to spread their wings and clash as they should, and it's a great story with a lot of heart delivered by some very accomplished actors.

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