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13 August 2010, 9:00 am 34 Comments

Movie Review: The Kids Are Alright

This post was submitted by TNG contributor, Duke Marine

The kids may be alright—although I fail to see how that was the message of this movie—but the film itself is certainly not. I wanted to see this film, in fact I was excited to see it, after reading media surrounding it. The primarily self-congratulatory interviews with the stars, producers and writers claimed the movie organically illustrates, in the words of one blogger, how “‘gay’ and ‘straight’ have more in common than most people on all sides of the issue are used to admitting.” In perfect retrospect, I should have been wary of the heavy-handed insistence that the movie is “mainstream” and not “political.” I had hoped the fact that the personal is undeniably political would mean that a movie purporting to honestly portray the lives of a gay family would be a sorely needed gay-positive statement. Again, such stars of the film as Mark Ruffalo pretty much ubiquitously made this argument in the press.

So I went to one of the three or four theatres in the entire Los Angeles area in which the movie is playing two weeks after its initial, limited release—a situation that I initially found offensive, but, in light of what I then saw of the movie, now think is a blessing in disguise. I should make it known right away that I’m about to review a movie that I walked out of approximately halfway through the runtime. If that discredits my opinion in somebody’s eyes, then so be it. I hope that I am able to explain my reasons for cutting my (painful) experience short sufficiently to show that I don’t believe there is a single way possible for the movie to end that could redeem what it subjects the audience to by the halfway point.

The premise of the movie is, of course, itself a sensitive issue. I’m not talking about the lesbian family, per se, but the fact that the plot centers around their eighteen and fifteen-year-old children hunting down and seeking contact with their biological father (sperm donor).  Obviously, children brought about through IVF or adoption seeking their biological parents­–– especially in the context of marginalized, misunderstood, and criticized gay families––is a touchy subject for many. However, I firmly believe that it is an “organic” issue that, dealt with in an appropriately sensitive manner, can be portrayed in a constructive way. Also, from my own limited experience with gay people who have started families, I think that while tricky, most gay parents are aware of these issues inherent in their decision to parent and are prepared to deal with whatever may arise—so are the majority of straight families who adopt or utilize IVF for various reasons. I go off on this tangent only to ensure that it is clear I am not disparaging the movie solely for dealing with a potentially difficult subject.

However, the movie begins going off-track as soon as the sexuality of the lesbian mothers is explored. Despite the insistence of the interviews I read that sexual issues are mere subtext in the movie, sexuality is a prominent theme in the film, complete with graphic, pornographic portrayals. Here’s the kicker, though: the film contains graphic, pornographic portrayals only of sexuality involving men, especially heterosexual activity. The first scene of “sexuality” we see is the lesbian couple in bed, fully clothed and covered by heavy blankets, deciding rather awkwardly and tenuously that they will engage in sex by watching a gay male porn movie. Now, I know Rosie O’Donnell made comments a while ago about she and her then-partner watching gay male pornography. I know the arguments justifying this practice. Women’s sexuality tends to be more fluid than men’s, with arousal occurring from diverse stimuli, and of course there is the anti-pornography feminist argument (which in my opinion should be extended to gay male pornography as well, but I digress) that women in pornography are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual abuse.

Despite these arguments, however, I want to focus on the scene in the movie itself, where the lesbian women’s sexuality is portrayed by a fully clothed Annette Benning wearily regarding the explicitly shown gay men on the television while her partner, Julianne Moore, is completely hidden under blankets. The only way we know they are engaged in some kind of sex is the very audible whirring of a vibrator. After a few seconds composed primarily of shots of nude men on the television and Benning’s complaining about the temperature in the room, the scene ends as a slapstick gag about the T.V. remote being lost. Mere minutes later, during a scene involving sperm donor “dad” Mark Ruffalo, we are given a prolonged, graphic scene of he and his girlfriend-of-the-moment engaged in blatant, pornographic hardcore sex.

Now, I am well aware that in anything labeled “mainstream,” it is considered shocking to see two gay people even kiss, while heterosexuals can be fully nude and openly simulating (or performing) intercourse even on television or in “family” films. I think we all remember Will & Grace. So, I wasn’t that shocked by that double standard, except that it contained the addition of the fact that gay male sexuality was openly displayed and exploited as the focus of a scene that was supposed to be about women’s sexuality. Apparently, in this film, it is not the gay-ness or homosexuality of lesbians’ lives that is shocking or inappropriate, but the thought that they might be woman-identified women whose private lives do not involve the presence of men—or, at least, male genitalia. Again, I am aware that there may be some gay women who view gay male pornography. However, this film did not even try to explain this phenomenon to its “mainstream” audience—an audience that still misunderstands the diversity of human sexuality. In a scene that occurs a little later in the film, the women’s teenage son is snooping in their room and discovers a gay male porn movie and a vibrator. Again, the center of these women’s sexuality is male eroticism and a substitute phallus. When their son asks his mothers why they are watching gay men, we are given an awkward, rushed explanation that sometimes human sexuality is “counterintuitive” and women, whose sexual response is internal, must see sexual arousal “externalized.” This is followed by a quick aside that begins to mention the sexual exploitation of women in pornography before being cut short and the whole subject being dropped.

I don’t really feel the need to analyze the choice of the wording in this explanation. I mean, can human sexuality—in this context gay women’s sexuality—being defined as “counterintuitive” really be misinterpreted? Can the insistence that women—even gay women—somehow benefit from viewing men’s erections really be a pro-gay, pro-woman statement? It was at this point in the movie when I began looking at the time and hoping this torture would end soon. Little did I know that this was only the beginning.

In the next few scenes, the biological father Ruffalo is introduced into the family’s lives. The women’s reaction to him can only be described as bitchy, bitter, and defensive. Again, I reiterate that in my experience, parents of any orientation who choose parenting through IVF or adoption are well aware that issues of biological parentage will arise and are prepared to deal with it—especially gay and lesbian parents who know from the start that these issues must arise in order to produce biological children. Instead of seeing a mature couple deal with this inevitable situation, the movie gives us two women bickering about a man invading their lives. And do they take this man-hating streak out on the man in question? Of course not. Instead we suddenly see the women begin to bicker with each other. The next time we see them attempt to engage in sexuality, all we are given is a voyeuristic scene of a nude Julianne Moore in a tub while her partner lights candles and rubs her feet before being distracted by a phone call. It has also become clear by this point that she is an alcoholic and slightly verbally abusive and controlling.

Now I come to the penultimate degradation of women and gay sexuality that I witnessed before exiting. Julianne Moore’s character becomes Ruffalo’s landscaper, and during a consultation, she passionately begins kissing him. Now, I want to make it clear again that I am not against the subject of adultery in gay relationships being treated in general just because it is a sensitive issue. Obviously, lesbians cheating on their longtime partners with men has been portrayed in film and television before—most notably in gay productions like The L Word and Queer As Folk. However, again, there is a sensitive, “organic” way to deal with this issue. In the two instances I just cited, the affairs were part of long-running series and part of well-established characters’ storylines. In both instances, the women were embroiled in explicitly collapsing relationships yet still expressed immediate guilt and inner conflict over their actions. Usually alcohol was quite “organically” involved, and the psychology of the action was thoroughly probed.

This is not the situation in the film at issue. After prolonged making-out, Julianne Moore merely giggles and awkwardly exits, a demure schoolgirl act if ever there was one. She is never shown at any level of unease with this act, nor, despite hints that her partner is somewhat controlling and drinks too much wine, are we given any psychological explanation as to why this woman would cheat on her partner of at least twenty years or why she would cheat with a man, let alone this particular man. As a character, Mark Ruffalo is given no psychological depth, nor is his apparent animal attractiveness to women explained. He is about as stereotypically masculine as you can get in modern film—hairy, perpetually disheveled and scantily clad, underachieving, promiscuous and riding a motorcycle (the “danger” of which is constantly remarked on, and which is anathema to the controlling, bitter lesbians).

Within minutes, the movie returns to Moore and Ruffalo working together on his property, where Moore—again, bubbly and awkward—apologizes for the kiss with the vague explanation, “I don’t do that.” This is of course not met with any kind of respect from Ruffalo, who merely advances, followed by Moore responding, rushing to passionately kiss and grope at him like a hungry animal.

This is where the movie became clearly, unambiguously offensive to women’s and gay sexuality. The kiss instantly leads to eager intercourse. Julianne Moore sinks to Ruffalo’s crotch and eagerly strips open his pants to reveal his penis. At this her eyes widen in worshipful amazement as she gasps like a starving person presented with a buffet. We are then given graphic, fully nude, explicit scenes of the “lesbian” being penetrated in various positions while screaming and moaning in satisfied ecstasy.

And this is when I walked out. After being told that children of lesbian or gay parents apparently need to find and form a relationship with their opposite-sex biological “parent” (who has the right to dispense parenting and parental advice), after being told that gay or lesbian parents respond to this invasion of the opposite sex by become defensive and bitter and attacking each other, after being told that lesbian sexuality is dependent upon there being visual representations and substitutes for male erection present (and is still an awkward, rigged-together exercise in futility), and finally after being told that it is inevitable that a woman will instinctually leap on the first man to successfully invade her life and worship his real erection and achieve ultimate fulfillment from being penetrated by it (no matter if the woman has a partner of twenty years and the man in question is a passing acquaintance at best), I got up and walked out.

This movie is nothing but a misrepresentation of women’s sexuality—indeed, a misappropriation of it, as the movie claims to represent an “organic” women’s reality and the modern family. Again in the perfect vision of hindsight, I realize I should have been wary of the insistence that the film would show that gay and straight families are so similar as to be nearly identical. Well, of course gay families will seem exactly like straight families if you make us into straight families. This movie is about as gay-positive or woman-identified as the heterosexual man’s girl-on-girl pornographic fantasy that it almost condemned before demurring. What bothers me the most, though, is that this is still to this day considered groundbreaking “mainstream” presence of the gay and lesbian community. The other instances of tenuously similar plots that I mentioned previously (in The L Word and Queer As Folk, respectively) occurred in niche shows, targeted directly at a gay audience who understood (hopefully) that they were soap-operatic dramas. To portray what this movie portrayed to a world that continues to misinterpret and vilify human sexuality, particularly women’s sexuality, based on the very phallocentric, heterosexist assumptions this movie both subconsciously and overtly presented is criminal. It is the opposite of gay-positive, it is the opposite of woman-identified, and it should be the opposite of everything for which the gay and feminist community stands. Hopefully, I am not in the minority in this viewpoint and other gays, lesbians, allies, and feminists come together to counter this “mainstream” degradation of our lives.

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  • Philip Clark said:

    Perhaps if any of the main actresses or actors involved in the production were lesbian or gay, she/he might have insisted on changes to the script or the director’s interpretation thereof.

    As an example, in The Celluloid Closet (1987 revised edition), Vito Russo writes about how gay actor Robert Plunket approached director Martin Scorcese on the set of the brilliant dark comedy After Hours (1985) and got him to change details of Plunket’s gay character’s behavior to more accurately reflect how that character might have acted during a street pick-up.

    If we keep expecting straight movie-makers (and authors, and musicians, and visual artists, and…) to portray our lives accurately, we will be waiting for a hell of a long time.

  • Dana said:

    I nearly walked out of this movie myself for the reasons mentioned and more, but I have to say that I nearly do this with a lot of Hollywood productions and this is why I seldom bother to enter a movie theatre- twisted truth and sensationalism and sales are what Hollywood always produces and this movie had its share. Besides a few laughs, if you had not walked out the coming back together of the couple was touching not only in its humor but in the way that it demonstrated that marriage is about two people dealing with each other- good and bad.

  • kaitlin said:

    i stopped reading this article halfway through, “so if that discredits my opinion then so be it.” but uhh you can’t “review” a film unless you’ve watched the entire thing. just sayin.

    also, @Philip you realize lisa cholodenko, the director of the movie, is a lesbian, she is not a “straight movie-maker.” She also directed High Art in 98 about another lesbian couple.

  • Philip Clark said:

    Actually, I was unaware it was the same filmmaker. I’m surprised, though, because having seen both films (and having had problems with the portrayal of lesbianism in “High Art,” but thinking it essentially a strong movie), I wouldn’t have imagined the same director would be responsible for such a messed-up latter effort. “The Kids Are All Right” perpetuates a long-time film trope that lesbians aren’t really content with each other, but jump at the nearest dick that shows an interest.

    The “coming back together” ending (to use Dana’s words) seemed an insufficient response to the barrage of strong, sexualized images from earlier in the film. Not to get into an “is this good for the gay or bad for the gays?” argument, but it did make me wonder with what message viewers were walking away.

  • Duke said:

    OK, the authorship issue was resolved.

    I am glad to know that some people saw the same issues that I saw. I do realize that it weakens my stance as a reviewer that I didn’t sit through the entire movie. However, I hold that my arguments concerning what I did see are relevant. It was a clear message expressed with strong sexual imagery, and no matter what narrative changes might have been made by the end, you can’t un-see what is shown in the first half of the movie.

    I just know that I for one hate to see gay sexuality and women’s sexuality used in that fashion. Whatever the dramatic merit, I think that is wrong.

    Also, I do want to point out that there was at least one straight male producer on this movie. Lisa Cholodenko spoke of him in an interview. Even if she hadn’t, though, I think it is safe to assume that she did not make the film single-handedly. Nor is it particularly true that just because a filmmaker is a lesbian she will make the right choices. Ilene Chaiken is another case in point. I stopped watching “The Real L Word” after two episodes because it is ludicrously offensive.

  • MarkDC said:

    The Kids Are Alright was AWFUL.

    Lisa Cholodenko movies are incredibly irritating, filled with [sub]urban hipster poseurs embracing affected speech patterns, clothes and lives. Like most Americans they’re lemmings: sponges masquerading as “cool”. Mark Ruffalo’s character is a successful business owner (in his late 40s or early 50s?) who can neither enunciate nor speak in full sentences? I was bored and looking at my watch after 30 minutes. Watching this I remembered High Art…which made me want to scream for hours.

    This film reminded me of Philadelphia (1993), a movie that was not made for Gay men or for People with HIV/AIDS but instead made specifically to educate stupid heterosexuals with sympathetic characters.

    Like Philadelphia, The Kids Are Alright was NOT made to be a film on it’s own merits. It was made to educate stupid heterosexuals that The Gays are “normal” and can raise children without contaminating them. I felt like I was watching some spoon fed after school special.

    That most people don’t even realize this is proof that identity itself has become just another saturated consumer product in our culture – watch and believe. Monetize the immaterial (which is actually the “genius” of Facebook: identity as product).

    One more thing: I did not at all understand the son’s disgust at being thought of as Gay by his moms. The moms reaction to the kids disgust never challenged his idea Gay is “bad”. I’ve never known of a Gay kid to have an equally disgusted reaction to being thought of as “straight”. It seems to me that children of Gay people would be especially aware of sexual orientation in a way that would not provoke disgust, anger or hysteria.

    Sitting through this movie was excrutiating. I remembered wanting to punch myself in the head years ago during High Art. That same feeling came back during TKAA. I now officially hate all Lisa Cholodenko movies. I won’t part with $11.50 for one of her efforts again.

  • Bev said:

    Stick to films like “Kissing Jessica Stein”….

  • David said:

    When I saw the film, I didn’t watch it with a lens so focused on sexuality, but rather on a marriage between two very flawed women.

    The family portrayed fits a standard archetype of work/alcoholic who alienates a spouse. And it was done with an alarming authenticity that showed these people at their best and their worst.

  • Wilson BLVD said:

    Speaking of “EXCRUCIATING” Sitting through some of these painfully hate filled film comments was “EXCRUCIATING”!

  • Dennis MP said:

    WOW! The windbaggy faggot versions of Siskel and Ebert and their movie reviews are out in full force on this comment board today! I suggest y’all make more constructive use of your time. You’re stinking up the place!

  • Duke said:

    @ MarkDC: Thank you! I completely agree with everything you very eloquently stated! I would only add that Philadelphia did not present us pornography aimed at misappropriating the characters’ sexuality. It was the classic, neutered mainstream double standard.

    @ everyone else: Wow! I’m really proud to be called anti-film, hate-filled, and (my personal favorite) windbaggy faggot! That is exactly the rhetoric of the liberal, patriarchal police that attacks any kind of radical, subversive feminist. Thank you!

  • Hung Jury Pub! said:

    Have you ever made movie Duke?Or do you just shit on other peoples work for fun?

    WHY? Do all critics have to be such pseudo intellectual douchebags!



  • Hung Jury Pub! said:

    PS – And Duke, if you’re such a “radical subversive feminist” then take that impressive resume and put that firepower to use in real life. Get the eff to work in the community and stop wasting time here!

  • zack said:

    Jesus, Hung Jury. Why have any opinons at all, about anything, if this is how you react to things? Also, feminist bashing went out of style a long time ago. Duke put together a great movie review, you just look worse off for shitting on it.

    Also, let the record show the Hung Jury is that same damn commenter who comments all the time under different handles and makes it very hard to keep a conversation going.

  • RB said:

    Freedom of speech is a bitch!

  • Hung Jury Pub! said:

    If you can’t deal with OPINIONS Zach and expect only sunshine blown up your skirt then…turn off the comments section!

  • Edward said:

    Like it or not, this film does perpetuate the time-worn idea that lesbian women cannot be satisfied with each other. And to be honest, that angle of one lesbian partner falling for a man not only rang false, it seemed to make a cliche of the film too. (Julianne Moore, who I love, did the same role in “A Single Man”, coming on to her gay friend, and that felt silly and forced also. Come to think of it, what is it with gay filmmakers using this tired plot device so often?). I think the writers could have tried just a little bit harder and found a different angle. It would actually have been more fun – and dished up a little bit of suspense – if the two women tried their darndest to get rid of the guy, and ended up welcoming him as a friend of the family. (That’s another cliche the film could have combated – that lesbians don’t like men). I guess I just feel that the film took an unnecessary detour with all this man on lesbian stuff. What’s the point? Did it progress the plot? Did it enrich the storyline of the kid’s looking for their father? I don’t think it did either. Whereas, a story about two women in a committed relationship being threatened emotionally by the casual sperm donor who fathered one or more of their kids entering their lives could have been very effective. After all, a genuine character story doesn’t worry about what gays think or how to reel in heterosexuals…a real character study plays out to it’s logical conclusion DESPITE what the audience expects to see. This film didn’t do that. It reeked of story meeting calculation — how do we keep the heterosexuals in the audience happy? Let’s have one of the lesbians turn straight!

  • emily said:

    I didn’t think this movie was great, but I also didn’t mind it while I was watching it.

    But the more I thought about it later the more annoyed with it I became.

    I’m straight and didn’t go to it looking for any hidden political agenda on how they treated “lesbians” in it — I was just thinking of them as people — a FAMILY. And I don’t care how “flawed” these two people were — People do NOT go MANY YEARS in a monogomous relationship and then one day just SUDDENLY start screwing the brains out of someone they’ve just recently met without giving it so much as a second thought, and w/out expressing ANY guilt/remorse until they get caught.

    If that character had been someone who was presented as dishonest and selfish in all ways already it might have been believable — but who does that?


    I too was skeptical of the lesbians needing male porn to get turned on. Maybe on a lark but as their regular thing? I’m doubtful.

    But the main irritation was just hollywood, once again, trying to convince us that it’s NORMAL and ACCEPTABLE to just suddenly, out of the blue, cheat on your spouse of 20 years…

  • Duke said:

    I do want to address the insinuation that posting on this website is somehow a waste of time and a betrayal of feminist activism.

    Where are we to post/publish radical feminist ideas when most people DO have a strong belief that ANYTHING goes when slapped with the title “opinion”? When freedom of speech applies only to those who already have the money and the power to procure that speech?

    How else should we point out mainstream Hollywood movies that are doing real damage on a massive scale, influencing millions of people’s minds by indulging the same tired assumptions that are oppressing us in the first place? Especially while one is trying to procure a resume “impressive” enough to those with the money and power to give one a rented voice on the condition not to say anything radical or subversive or contradict anyone else’s “opinion”?

    I am glad there is a forum like this that is an outlet for truly free speech, that takes my experience as relevant to share and maybe get others thinking.

  • adam said:

    i haven’t seen the film (but then neither have you really), and agree that all the promotional appearances i saw were the kind of self congratulatory shit that i hate. i thought the whole thing reeked of the kind of “liberal” propaganda epitomized by “the family stone” a few years back (worst. movie. ever.) i’m pretty sure i wouldn’t like it, but who knows. i just don’t think it’s fair when people have the expectation that every portrayal of gay characters are meant to be, or responsible for being portrayals of gay people as a whole. they’re not. isn’t it possible that the director intended these characters as individuals? with their own problems and motivations and insecurities and sexual peculiarities? requiring every queer character, or story, to be some kind of role model is limiting. and boring.

    and emily: people do just up and cheat on their partners. a lot more want to. it happens all the time.

  • Hung Jury Pub said:

    @Duke & Zack, What I could use and probably others as well, is a list of films(if they exist) that do represent and depict the true gay and lesbian experience.

    How about writing on that?

  • emily said:


    You make a good point that it’s not the obligation of every movie to accurately portray whatever minority group happens to be in their movie. (Paraphrasing for you hope I did not miss you point.)

    Regarding the up and cheating — I understand people do up and cheat, that’s true. But isn’t it usually cheaters who cheat? As opposed to people who have been honest, committed, and monogamous for 15 – 20 years?
    In the movie the non cheating spouse was behaving in a way to make the cheating one feel somewhat estranged. But is it REALLY that likely that someone would throw all those years of committment away without seeming to give it a second thought? And without seeming to feel guilty about it?

    Maybe thats what irritated me the most — not so much that she DID that, but that it was presented in a tone that it was NORMAL and ACCEPTABLE. Like those stupid womens magazines that have articles recommending an affair to “spice up your marriage.” Call me uptight but I say — Good luck with that approach!

  • evol said:

    I too didn’t finish the film but I almost whole-heartedly agree with your critique.
    The one thing I will say in the films defense, I believe the reason behind Juliann Moore’s character falling for this particular male was valid. She saw a familiarity in him expressed in the line “I see my kids in your expressions”

    I took her affair as a declaration to the viewer that women’s sexuality isn’t defined by a person but by feeling appreciated and safe. Of course, that is hardly ever true but it is certainly society’s ideal of what women want.

    What offended me more about this movie, aside from the beginners’ lesson on lesbian lifestyle, was the cliche sub characters. The aloof, wandering male who decides a family is a good idea as long as he doesn’t have to put in any effort, the slutty co-op co-workers who sleep with him suggesting that all straight women really just want to change an asshole, and the over-achieving daughter paired with the f*ck up son. Did a 9th graded right this movie? The characters had about as much depth as an episode of Full House.

  • Amo said:

    I’m sorry, but this film was a sellout…. that’s right, Lisa Cholodenko SOLD OUT. It is a repugnant, much more damaging example of the same old tired, contrived, formulaic Hollywood cliche…. that of a lesbian “really just needing a man” for “real” sexual gratification. And not just a literal, physical “man”, but as Duke pointed out, visual, pornographic representations of men, even during “lesbian sex”. At the best, this movie is a phallocentric powerhouse- one in which most male mainstream viewers and a largely heterosexual contingent can take comfort in. There is a reason this film is as apparently successful as it is- it appeals to the heterosexual psyche and cloaks the mainstream heterosexual viewer in what is familiar. This film would not be as widely accepted had this element not been added. Lisa Cholodenko knew this. She very purposefully chose to add this element- a homage to the mainstream Hollywood viewer- who otherwise would not have been able to embrace this film as openly without it. Phallocentric and outrageous at best- downright damaging and misleading… perpetuating a false, degrading, troubling stereotype about gay women at worst. This film is not an accurate, representative portrayal of gay women. It plays into the male fantasy, not unlike the pornography produced by men depicting unrealistic “girl-on girl” action to excite their sensibilities. Two thumbs down Cholodenko. You should be ashamed.

  • Amo said:

    And by the way Hung Jury- shut it. You are profoundly disrespectful and ignorant- and I am sure most people familiar with this particular forum do not take you seriously. Why are YOU wasting YOUR time?…with different handles at that? ;) This forum is for intellectual, helpful, engaging, and respectful discussion… not red herrings and bull crap, son. You were extremely disrespectful, in a very immature, 9th-grade-sort-of-way… to the author of this particular review…. What are you threatened of? Why don’t YOU get a life?

  • Arthur said:

    Wait, why the shot(s) at Philadelphia?

    I think Duke, and with all due respect, that you should go back and see the whole film and do a second review. Your criticisms of the film are quite legit and well spoken, but it’s necessary to see how the storylines are resolved.

    Female sexuality as a whole has usually been presented in the mainstream through male eyes. it’s not right, but that’s the way it has been. Of course a ‘mainstream’ Hollywood film isn’t going to provide neuonced portrayal, they’re about the bottom line. In the film, what if Moore’s character had cheated with a woman instead? Would that have changed your view of the film?

  • Sue said:

    I appreciate the critique presented and strongly agree that this movie’s message is highly hypocritical, in the sense that it seems to be promoting gay marriage/gay parents, on the one hand, while not necessarily promoting acceptance of individuals — gay or otherwise — who choose not to get married and have kids Mark Ruffalo’s character is clearly used as a foil to establish the normality and acceptability of lesbian parents: his alternative lifestyle must not only be seen as immature and selfish, but he himself must ultimately want to have what these married lesbians have — a family — in order for the film to normalize gay parents. Yet it seems to me rather unlikely that we as a society can arrive at a point where gay parents are fully accepted without arriving first at a world where it is ok to be gay and/or heterosexual without kids. It is movies like this that make me question whether gay marriage should really be the focal issue for the gay rights movement. All gays (married and unmarried, those who have children and those who don’t) will continued to be viewed as suspect/second class citizens so long as individuals are stigmatized for their refusal to marry and have children.

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  • Sara said:

    As a lesbian (just to get that out of the way) I can understand some of the points in your review and how the movie may have come across to other viewers. However, to me, the movie was never truly a platform for homosexuality, rather a look at a marriage that lost something along the way (the partners just happen to be two women). While, I can see how the depiction of the lesbian sex scene vs the straight sex scene(s) could be considered offensive, I found it to be an indication of how the marriage between Nic and Jules had become routine, lost some of its spark, etc. whatever you want to call it. I am not, and have never been, married so I may be wrong here, but I believe this sometimes happens in a relationship, be it straight or gay, so I found it to show how something was missing. I really wasn’t affected that these two lesbians get the mood started with gay pornography, no matter how graphic. I never found it to have any hidden meaning (e.g. any sex involving men is more important, should be depicted as graphically as possible). Whatever floats a person’s boat – besides, it’s porn. Isn’t the point meant to be…explicit?

    Jules having an affair with the sperm donor of her kids? Practically immediately after recognizing traits and characteristics of her children in him, in his facial expressions, his mannerisms? Didn’t seem so far fetched to me. Not at all. Plus, he was offering her support in something she felt her own partner wasn’t. And as one commenter has already mentioned, I wonder what many unhappy viewers would have thought/felt if it were a woman she cheated with instead. The fact that Nic treated Paul pretty much as an object, trying to find something that’s been lost in her own marriage (having nothing to do with one’s gender, perhaps more with a distance that’s been wedged between the two partners – something the character herself admits later on in the film, which you probably missed as you left before the movie’s conclusion) seemed spot on to me. Mark Ruffalo’s character tries to make a connection with this affair, reaching for intimacy and a serious relationship, whereas Julianne Moore’s character never engages back with him, in fact she laughs him off in the end when he suggests they start a new life together – further more proving it was never about him (or his penis) but herself, and where she’s found herself in her own marriage. How she’s felt. Neglected and unsupported. While you cite that there’s really no evidence of discontent in the marriage before The Man enters into The Lesbians lives, I found that these emotions were fully shown through the movie. Almost right off the bat, in the couple’s first bit of dialog together about Jule’s newest occupation adventure, we see Jules becoming defensive about Nic’s attitude towards her “flightiness”, leading the viewer to believe this is a reoccurring fight. One we see plenty of times throughout the film – Nic’s financial support of the family vs Jules feeling a lack of emotional support.

    There’s more I could say, but I realize I’m getting a bit too long winded so I’ll wrap it up. I have to say, it really is a shame you left before the conclusion, where Nic and Jules have The Big confrontation about the affair, and Annette Benning’s character voices a lot of the points you’ve made in your review. And Julianne Moore’s characters offers some insight. To me it was genuine, heartfelt, and realistic.

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  • Designer Daddy said:

    I know I’m coming (wayyyy) late to this comment thread, but I was poking around TNG for articles on parenting and came upon it.

    Anyhoo, I had some similar views of the film, although from the perspective of a gay dad of an adopted son.


    Designer Daddy

  • Essess said:

    Another late addition – I still think there’s a double standard when it comes to women’s and men’s sexuality represented on film. Name even one film (mainstream, not porn) where the straight husband/father is in a 20 year marriage that’s in trouble and has lost its sexual spark. He and his wife have had to use a sperm donor, who enters their lives because the kids contact him. Suddenly, the bored, lonely, love/sex-starved husband starts sleeping with the sperm donor and then we get explicit scenes of him being penetrated in every possible position while screaming with satisfaction. Though the man and wife reconcile in the end, what would the heterosexual, mainstream audience’s reaction be to such a narrative? Not half as kind and understanding about “complexity”, “fluidity” and “families are just families”, I warrant.

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  • Alli said:

    Yeah, I found that my straight friends didn’t find this movie at all offensive, but I thought it was one of the most offensive movies I’ve ever seen. They had to make lesbians seem like when they were near a penis they just couldn’t resist. Julianne Moore was obviously not a lesbian in this movie either. Also, the fact that they watched gay male porn was very strange. Overall, terrible movie!