Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Movie Reviews: The Kids Are All Right and Laurel Canyon

I saw High Art a couple of years ago, and I was blown away by it. So after I saw The Kids Are All Right I decided to look up Lisa Cholodenko and see what else she'd done; I was surprised to realize she was responsible for High Art as well. Since I liked two out of two Cholodenko movies I'd seen, I added Laurel Canyon to my Netflix.

The Kids Are All Right (2010) 10/10
Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Benning) are a long-standing couple with two teenagers. When the kids decide to seek out the sperm donor who "fathered" them (Mark Ruffalo) the family structure is shaken.

More...Cholodenko writes serious, moody films. This time, she brought in Stuart Blumberg to work on the script, turning it from drama to comedy (or at least "dramedy"). The lightness really enhances the story; it's truer, and realer, because it's funny. There are a lot of out-loud laughs, so many, in fact, that I want to see it again at home when it comes out on DVD to catch the ones I missed because of on-going audience laughter. The three leads have surprisingly good comedic timing, given all three are best known as dramatic actors. Benning and Moore just feel like a couple; they feel lived-in and real. They react to one another like people who have been reacting to the same things for twenty years. Mia Wasakowska and John Hutcherson really work as the kids, too.

This is just a flat-out recommendation. The script is witty, the body language is as perfect as I've seen in a movie in years, the kids refer to "Moms" (as in "Moms will be mad"), Nic drinks just a little too much, and is just a little sick of Jules's flakiness, and Ruffalo comes in like an awkward superhero whose kryptonite will eventually be revealed. It's sexy, it's fun, and it's true down to the bones.

Laurel Canyon (2002) 7/10
Sam (Christian Bale) and his fiance, Alex (Kate Beckinsale) move into Sam's mother's Laurel Canyon home temporarily. Sam is a psychiatrist starting his residency and Alex is working on her dissertation. Jane, Sam's mom, comes home unexpectedly to produce a rock album in her home studio. Jane's rock and roll lifestyle creates challenges for Sam and Alex.

I am not the world's biggest Christian Bale fan. I know everyone thinks he's the best thing since Cheerios, but fuggit, I don't like Cheerios either. Still, I keep watching him, because everyone things he's All That and he keeps being in movies I want to see. Beckinsale is not much better in my estimation; neither fascinates me. But Frances McDormand always fascinates, and she is magnificent as Jane.

I liked this movie. It's thoughtful and introspective about sex and commitment and choice and confusion and the normal ways that people screw up and then stand there and look at the mess, and that's definitely Chodolenko's milieu. It could have used Blumberg's touch, because it's fairly grave in a way that doesn't really improve the story.

The Cross-Post is All Right