Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Kids Are All Right

Singapore Says We Cannot Be Normal

So I guess you would have known by now, no matter where in the world you are, of our new rating that's tacitly known as R21-1, which on one hand allows for a film to be released in Singapore, but the censors dictated that only 1 print can be used, effectively elevating it to arthouse proportions accorded by films played in The Picturehouse or Cinema Europa, and of course any publicity is good publicity, a course they had enacted to push curious onlookers to the cinemas to have a look at what the uproar is about. And I can only speculate here for the countless number of postponement to the film's release from last year until now, is because of what's deemed by our nannies and moral police as objectionable.

But seriously, just what is objectionable boiled down to the portrayal of the principle family in the film, which is essentially without a father figure,and having the kids Joni (played by Mia Wasikowska, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson, grown up from his Bridge to Terabithia role) by lesbian mothers Nic and Jules (with Annette Benning in an Oscar nominated performance, and Julianne Moore who's no acting pushover herself) in a normal family setup. Those who are holier than thou deemed that such portrayals will corrupt the basic moral fabric of society. Frankly, I'm not sure what film they're watching, and I'm purely speculating that only the first 10 minutes of the show was seen, balked at, fast forwarded to the Hollywood ending, balked some more, then came to that conclusion based on narrow-mindedness that this film be given its controversial restriction.

Better than nothing, right? And seriously it's thanks to its Oscar nominations in major categories such as Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay that even allowed this film to be under contention for screening here, otherwise most who have seen it here would have done so through alternative, and no means legal, sources since the powers that be deem a film noteworthy through the number of awards and Oscar nominations it can garner (we're suckers for rankings, award shows etc). But here's the catch - to anyone who has watched the film in its entirety and thought about it a little deeper (than to stand on the soapbox and condemn it outright), it's not all a rosy picture that's being portrayed, especially with the moral, ethical and of course sexual issues that all get brought to the table for an examination. If you think a typical family will have it easy, a dysfunctional one as this have similar problems faced being amplified, and I suppose for any same sex relationships to want to bring up kids successfully, it hammers home that it's definitely not trivial, as far as the basic issues that form the film's premise goes, and just like any other family, requires plenty of love, patience and truck loads of commitment.

On screen lesbians Nic and Jules' family is constructed as such - they each take sperm that's donated from the same anonymous donor, and impregnate themselves, therefore having their children who can grow up to be half-siblings. Naturally one of them wears the pants in the house - Nic by virtue of being a doctor and raking in big money, while the other the stay home mom though looking to start her own business since the kids are all grown up. All's fine and dandy, though there are numerous problems percolating beneath the surface ready to explode, especially when the kids seek out and make contact with their biological dad Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an easy going guy who naturally appeals since he's out to bond with them, and never applying any parental responsibilities and control over the kid's upbringing. So here comes plenty of comparison, made worse when Paul enters into a physical relationship with Jules, thereby tossing the entire family relationship dynamics right up in the air.

This sudden appearance of a father figure forms the crux of the issues brought up in the film, such as whether a same-sex marriage with children will work, and the moral / ethical issues that come with teenagers growing up, who will one day question their being in this world. Everyones pretty self-conscious about various perceptions being cast upon them, and the usual family issues such as the lack of appreciation, the taking for grantedness, being petty and judgemental about another, all rear their ugly head. But it's not all a bitch fest and no fun. Enough comical moments got fused into the screenplay allowing some laughter to balance up the heavy dramatic moments, though I'm quite sure some may not find certain aspects as funny as I did if they're in the same boat or predicament faced by the characters, such as when the moms here started to suspect if their son had gay tendencies, or narratively co-writer and director Lisa Cholodenko just knew when to inject light-heartedness at the right points through her effective direction of the veteran cast.

The cast becomes the natural highlight, with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore being perfect opposite each other as the same sex married couple who have to deal with what I thought was the contempt from familiarity, and a strain in their marriage having a new man in their lives when none of them was prepared for it, since their kids were the one who did the outreach. It's been quite some time since we last saw Bening on screen, but what a comeback in a multi-faceted role. Moore also earns brownie points for her portrayal of Jules as the more emotional of the two, having to cope with the troubles that come from being too sensitive, being the personification of the saying of how we hurt the most those whom we love the most. Mark Ruffalo is also fast becoming one of my favourite character actors, and I'll be watching how he's going to tackle the Bruce Banner/Hulk role in The Avengers, which should be interesting to see his version of it, having Eric Bana and Edward Norton as his predecessors. Josh Hutcherson probably had the least screen time of the lot, but Mia Wasikowska had enough to show why she's probably the next up and coming actress in Hollywood's fold to keep an eye out for.

The Kids Are All Right boasts fine performances all round living its powerful dramatic screenplay, and seriously limiting it to one screen will dent its box office chances here, and making it a tad inconvenient to those genuinely wanting to see the film for all the right reasons, where moral/social fabric erosion is on the least of their concerns. At least it got shown, so I guess I should thank our lucky stars. Highly recommended!

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