It had some laughs, but it was an emotional tidal wave with some of the best acting you’re likely to see in any film. It was the first mainstream movie to show a married lesbian couple raising two teenagers. It won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical, and Annette Bening won a Golden Globe for what many consider her best performance.
The film was co-written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, who actually postponed production a year when she became pregnant with a child by way of an anonymous sperm donor. Before this, she had won wide acclaim for High Art which also dealt with a lesbian relationship. Sadly, despite the Golden Globe recognition – the Academy also nominated it for best motion picture – she has not made a feature film since. Her time has been spent directing episodic TV dramas, although she did direct Olive Kitteridge, which earned numerous awards as a miniseries and provided Frances McDormand with one of her signature roles. Ironically the only negative feedback she got on The Kids Are All Right was from the LGBTQ community, who were highly critical of the plot device whereby a homosexual woman engages in and enjoys heterosexual sex. The HFPA had no such reservations. They loved the movie.
Besides Bening, Julianne Moore, who played her partner, was also nominated. Their children were played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, who went on to become a teenage heartthrob in The Hunger Games films. Mark Ruffalo played the sperm donor father of both children. The conflict arises when the children decide to bring him into their lives and Bening’s character worries that he will disrupt the family dynamic, which, of course, it does.
2011 was a controversial year for comedies and musicals. Two of the nominees were widely jeered by critics and the other two were hardly of award caliber. The Kids came to the rescue, and nobody complained. The Golden Globe acting nominations were less criticized even though both Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp were nominated for The Tourist. The other nominees for Best Actor in a Musical and Comedy were Kevin Spacey in Casino Jack, Jake Gyllenhaal in Love & Other Drugs, Johnny again in Alice in Wonderland, and the winner, Paul Giamatti in Barney’s Version.
Besides Annette and Julianne, the nominees for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical were Anne Hathaway in Love & Other Drugs, Emma Stone in Easy A, and the, of course, Angelina Jolie. At least Cher was not nominated for Burlesque!