The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko; 2010
I didn't fully understand the scope of what director Cholodenko was going for until about 15 minutes from the end of the film. As I watched this cast of characters, a family of four which includes parents Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) and brother and sister Laser and Joni (Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska, respectively) share loving, bonding moments over dinner and points of contention like everyone else, there were moments where I felt like I was watching my own family. I loved how middle-class suburban the family was, and the parents just happened to be lesbians. Funny, humanistic moments concerning gay porn and having a talk with Laser about it were interesting and enjoyable to watch, while Bening's performance as the mother who feels threatened when Laser and Joni begin to bond with their sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo) was heart-breaking and dynamic.
But throughout it all, I was never fully engrossed with the rest of the characters besides Jules, and sometimes Nic. Perhaps it's a personal thing, but I found Paul to be, as Jules describes him, "self-satisfied," and I found no redeeming qualities about him whatsoever, even though it appears his character is supposed to be somewhat likable despite his flaws. In reality he becomes this pathetic man whose actions prove that he is not mature enough to understand what it means to make a full connection with someone without sex and without superficial meaning.
It clicked for me when Joni expresses to him, "I just wish you could've been...better." Joni wants Jules to be more accepting of her impending adulthood before she leaves for college; Nic wants Jules to stop using wine as her cushion and be more supportive of her professional endeavors; Nic and Jules want Laser to find better friends. They all want each other to be better without fully realizing their own problems.
And while this wouldn't be among my favorites, I can honestly say that in retrospect, the film does a good job of linking together all of these strings of character flaws and strengths in an emotionally fulfilling manner.