Review: The Kids Are All Right

(MA15+) ****

Director: Lisa Cholodenko.

Cast: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson.

WHILE Annette Bening won an acting gong at this week's Golden Globes for her performance here, any of the five stars of this excellent low-budget "dramedy" could have quite easily taken the award home.

It's the performances that help separate this from the herd. They have an intelligent, grounded screenplay to work from, but the five key actors all work diligently to ensure their characters aren't cliched or stereotypical.

The kids of the title are Joni (Wasikowska) and Laser (Hutcherson), who decide to track down and meet their biological father Paul (Ruffalo). This doesn't sit too well with Joni and Laser's two mums, Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore), who have no real desire to meet their sperm donor.

Paul's arrival throws an interesting new dynamic into their previously stable family, and the relationships he forms with each of them provides the film's dramatic spark.

The Kids Are All Right plays out in an enjoyable way and a gentle sprinkling of laughs is part of the light vibe, along with the sunshiney Californian setting and an upbeat uber-hip soundtrack that opens with Vampire Weekend's Cousins and concludes with MGMT's The Youth.

The humourous touches helped earn it the Best Musical or Comedy award at the Golden Globes, but I've gotta say the film is more of a breezy drama, as opposed to a weighty comedy.

The ace up its sleeve, aside from its "modern family" plot device, is its characters, brought to life with welcome layers and depth by the cast. Bening and Moore revel in their contrasting roles of tense Nic and freer-spirited Jules, while Ruffalo is a complex mixture of wannabe dad and mainstream drop-out.

And the kids are more than all right, they're great, with Wasikowska and Hutcherson giving well-rounded performances that prevent their characters from becoming typically angsty teens.

A worthy award winner, this is likely to raise its hand in the Oscar nominations.

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