Lisa Cholodenko is All Right.

July 24, 2010

The occasional TV episode aside (The L Word, Hung), it’s been about six years since we’ve seen anything from lesbian art house film director, Lisa Cholodenko (and even then it was Cavedweller (2004), which I’ll be honest, completely passed me by.) After the swathe of critical attention Cholodenko received for High Art (1998) (much of which notably suggested she was a director with a lot of promise), her follow-up feature Laurel Canyon (2002) turned out to be a mild disappointment and it seemed as though she might have missed her chance to bring her unique style of cerebral, art house queer cinema closer to the mainstream. But after a fairly quiet decade, with the release of her new film The Kids Are All Right (2010), Cholodenko has proved all the skeptics wrong.

The Kids Are All Right opens to a track by Vampire Weekend and the rhythmic pace of a couple of teenage boys skateboarding and bmxing around suburban streets, already an indication that Cholodenko’s return to celluloid is going to be vibrant and energetic. And it absolutely is, her style matured rather than changed, but enough for the film to be considered by many (including IMDB and Hopscotch) as a comedy in the first instance (although really it’s far better described as a drama with a witty script) and significantly, to welcome new and more mainstream, heteronormative audiences to her viewership.

It is with good humour that Cholodenko throws an occasional line to her critics, having Julianne Moore comment upon the “inauthenticity” of lesbian representation by straight women in porn films and she hasn’t given up her much criticised use of overly intelligent and thoughtful dialogue neither; “It hasn’t risen to the plane of consciousness yet for you” and “We just talked conceptually.” (Although there isn’t so much mention of the likes of Roland Barthes in this one!)

Personally, I love how much time she takes with the “real” moments between her leads; the awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes complete lack of sexiness, that comes with undressing to fuck in a hurry. Also, the tension is so fantastically explored that it becomes palpable, even in a packed theatre. It is with earnest that I say this is the first film to bring a tear to my eye in years; its penultimate scene incredibly moving.

The premise for the film centres around lesbian couple Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) who each gave birth to a child using sperm from the same donor. When the eldest child reaches eighteen she makes contact with her biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Paul’s presence in both the kids’ and the mums’ lives complicates and changes things for everyone dramatically. If you have a sense of humour and a heart then you ought to make sure you see this film because it’s absolutely bursting with both.

The Kids Are All Right is distributed through Hopscotch Films and is released in Australia September 02 2010. But if you can’t quite wait that long then you can catch it at MIFF Saturday 24 July 2010, 2.30pm and Tuesday 27 July 2010, 9.15pm


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