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Is The Kids Are All Right the new normal?

(Continued from Page 3)
by Tony Phillips

An apolitical film?

But can icing over the lesbian Bundt cake to make it more palpable to straights really result in political progress? Everyone insists the film is apolitical, as if artists are capable of such a feat. Moore even quotes Brit novelist and Granta hot young thing Zadie Smith, whose book on criticism Moore just finished reading. In one of the chapters, Smith discusses Steven Spielberg, who is often dismissed as a family filmmaker. Moore relays Smith take being "as if family wasn’t the major narrative in people’s lives." It’s a statement that rings true for Moore, regardless of a character’s sexual orientation. "It’s a really great statement," she says. "There’s so much to mine in family and marriage and relationships. I mean, that’s really it. That’s really all we do, aside from go to work." 

Perhaps, but doesn’t this key player in the new queer cinema every get nostalgic for the infancy of that movement, when things were a bit more militant? "In my life, I know plenty of gay families with two dads and two moms," Moore says, "and let me tell ya, the dynamic is not any different." For her, it’s not antithetical to the home life she has in common with her co-star Annette Benning, "We’ve both been in long term relationships and we’re both parents," Moore explains. "She has four kids, I have two, so this is not a paradigm that’s unfamiliar to us. We’re living it everyday." 

As is Cholodenko, although she’s in no rush to screen her latest for her own son, Calder. "I haven’t watched it with my four-year-old," she deadpans, "but I have watched it with my girlfriend several times." Is there anything in the film that sets off the seismic shocks her on-screen couple endures? "No, no," she replies, adding that her girlfriend is a really good laugher and gets most of the film’s comedy. "I need to clone her and plant her in all the audiences," Cholodenko continues. "She thinks this is the best thing that’s ever happened. She’s had a great time with the film." 

As for the rest of her family, Cholodenko says, "They’ll watch it later." She does see the film as a way to project into her own future, when she may be packing off her own kids for university. "This deals with teenagers, kids going off to college and stuff, so that just became a fantasy meditation on a theme." Some of it was a little closer to home. "The theme of using a sperm donor and being in a committed relationship with a woman and building a family and making those commitments definitely comes from a personal place," she adds. 

There is a theory around the film, one that’s even floated in its press kit, that because Moore was attached for such a long time, her part was written expressly with her in mind, but the other character in the couple, Nic, the role Annette Benning eventually landed, remained a question mark during the writing process, thereby allowing Cholodenko to easily insert herself into the part of the uptight, bread-winning doctor. Cholodenko doesn’t necessarily agree. "I would say there’s pieces of myself in all of these characters," she begins, "and certainly in those two women." But she also has to allow for there being parts of her heterosexual male co-writer in the mix as well. "There’s probably pieces of our moms in there, and what not," she continues. "I definitely identify with things that the Nic character does. And things that Annette Benning brings to it, but it wasn’t some portrait of myself." 

So at the end of the day, what is The Kids Are All Right a portrait of?

"It was really just the focus on the inner life of these characters," Cholodenko explains, "being really clear about all their dimensions and their dilemmas and giving each one of them an arc -- a place to begin and a journey to go through -- and that’s not an easy thing to do with five characters. You have them interwoven in a way that there’s a lot of cause and effect."

And that weave makes Cholodenko most proud. "We kind of pulled that off," she says, "and the issue of gay family, or anything that could be reduced to hand-wringing, just went away. There’s really not anything to hand-wring about. What you’re hand-ringing over is whether she’s going to run off with him? Or are they going to stay together? Or is the kid going to come in with a gun and kill the mom? I’m kidding, but we really focused on themes that anybody could project themselves into."

Tony Phillips covers the arts for The Village Voice, Frontiers and The Advocate. He’s also the proud parent of a new website: spookyelectricproductions.com.


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