Friday, January 29, 2010

Sundance Day 7: The Kids Are All Right & Undertow

I wrote up the the two best gay films, the lesbian dramedy The Kids Are All Right (which sold to Focus Features) and the Peruvian closeted romance Contracorriente "Undertow" (which sold to Wolfe) for Towleroad, so click on over and read my reviews.

But for those of you who are hopeless Oscar addicts (I feel and share your pain), I'm certain you've already begun thinking about Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right. I'd advise more caution with its awards prospects than you're hearing 'round the net.

This is already a case study in how buzz becomes immediate deafening hype through the speed of online regurgitation and hyperbole. The movie is definitely a charmer but one of its best and most curious attributes is the laid back and breezy way it approaches complicated people and tense situations.

Laid back and breezy, as you may know, aren't Oscar's favorite moods. And they're also fragile feelings, the type that excessive expectations can smother. I hope that Focus releases it in the summer actually, a la Little Miss Sunshine, rather than building a year of crushingly heavy expectations onto a small and frisky film.

<--- God visiting Park City to promote Kids

It'd be politically satisfying if Oscar went for a funny lesbian family film but they're generally more conservative than that. The initial reaction to The Kids Are All Right at Sundance was compared in several articles to the Little Miss Sunshine premiere a few years ago. That's not a bad comparison point when it comes to the performances, which have definite dramatic detailing but are also comedic. No one towers above anyone else so any golden attention will have to develop organically, with no obvious slam dunk "roles", the kind that win instant awards traction. We'll see how it shakes out.

Annette Bening's performance felt unusually authentic to me. What's more you already know that darkly comic family dinner sequences are a Bening specialty. Mark Ruffalo has the most difficult role in the film I think. There are so many ways this performance could have gone wrong and he makes splendid highly specific choices about his character. It's his best work since You Can Count on Me. Julianne Moore, on the other hand, has the Oscar advantage of having the film's big climactic monologue and the most screen time. But that's a minor point since this is truly an ensemble film, all five characters getting plenty of the movie's attention.

Unless Julianne or Annette have other roles released this year that interfere with this film's eventual campaign, I assume that they'll demote Moore to supporting and push Bening as lead. It's the same "top/bottom" situation I accurately predicted for Brokeback Mountain's Oscar campaigns (before anyone knew what that movie was like) only with women so we're speaking figuratively: Bening is the bread winning head of the household and Moore, her younger flightier wife, is more of a big sister type of mom.

I hope you all see and enjoy it but I really hope this warm funny experience isn't spoiled by expectations of golden statuettes.

once again, my review.


Seeking Amy said...

Yay I can't wait for The Kids Are All Right and I hope it's a summer release too. Is this a B+ in your book Nathaniel? Maybe I missed a letter grade in your review but it sounds like a B+

cinephile said...

Say something about Moore's performance please... because I wonder if she can convince in comedies. I mean she was hilarious in Cookie's Fortune and Big Lebowski, but her comedy attempts in the last decade FAILED.
So how is she? Can we finally say she is back on track or was the last year - Savage Grace, Blindness; great performances - her last stand (as mentioned in the film bitch awards 2008)?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

"felt unusually authentic to me" Why does that sound like a jibe to me? But I can't fault one of the few Annette defenders around.

I see her with the short hair and immediately remember The American President. I actually thought she'd go supporting here and lead for Mother & Child [even though that'd be fraud]. I'm not getting my hopes up, just glad to see that Warren is letting her work again.

adam k. said...

I actually took the "authentic" comment to mean that Annette Bening was unusually convincing as a lesbian, even though she's, you know, not one.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Okay, Adam's explanation makes complete sense and it's so obvious in retrospect. Obviously I'm paranoid because it's midnight and I've been up for 36 hours. :)


adam k -- that's what i meant, yes. i couldn't figure out a way to say it without sounding inappropriate. She's such a dyke in the movie! ;)

seeking Amy -- Probably yeah. I feel very warmly toward the movie but i'm not sure if i thought it was "great" can't wait to see it again.

cinephile -- i thought she was a little forced comedically... but still her best comic work in a long while.

FenixPahedi said...

God i wish Moore kicks ass in this movies. She need to get that Oscar man !

And Bening. God... She is so overdue too.

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Stefano said...

I can't wait to see this film... Julianne and Annette are two of my very favorite actresses!
So do you think Annette will be considered lead in "The Kids"? Probably it will also depend on "Mother and Child" awards chances... I think she will eventually be put in the supporting field for "M&C", with Naomi Watts as a possible Best Actress contender. I'm convinced Annette would have bigger opportunity to get awards recognition if she campaigns as Best Supporting Actress, especially with two acclaimed performances in two very well-received movies in the same year.
About Julianne, I suppose she could finally take the Golden Statue as soon as she takes another big dramatic role in an important film (a la "Far from Heaven" or "The Hours")... if she gets a sixth nomination (the fifth will be this year), she'll hardly walk home empty-handed.

Jim T said...

I'm so glad people liked The Kids Are All Right. I can't wait!

As for Moore, I thought her "something very intellectual" speech was a brilliant comedic turn as dramatic as it may be. :p

Glenn said...

Sounds like a slam dunk Original Screenplay nominee if you ask me.

Michael Parsons said...

It is interesting that there are quite a few buzz worthy performances from the festival (Kline, Williams, Bening, Gosling) how well can they last? And which will be the one that makes it all the way (or will there be more?)


Glenn -- yeah, probably. the rest will be trickier but if people like it as much as people did here you could see

PIC, SCREENPLAY, and a couple of acting nods.

jess said...

Well, it goes this way :

Bening will probably be campaigned as supporting alongside Moore for The Kids Are All Right since she appears to be the lead in Mother & Child, which also features baity performances by Naomi Wttas and Kerry Washington, the former being also a contender in the lead category for Fair Game in which she plays a real person, and a liberal at that !

Katey said...

I was talking to one of my Park City housemates about the movie, and he's friends with Yaya DaCosta, who plays the stunningly gorgeous hostess/girlfriend to Ruffalo's character. And he asked how her part was, and I was like "You know, even she gets a good moment!" That script is so excellent to every single one of its characters it's mind-boggling.

Anonymous said...

If Julianne Moore doesn't win an Oscar for this role she won't be nominated for the next couple of years.

Word around neighborhood has it that she's signing a deal for TV role that will happen very SOON.

Just FYI.

adam k. said...

Oh no, is Julianne about to join Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Sally Field, etc. as a perpetual nominee in Best Performance by an Aging, Former Movie Star, er, Actress in a Drama Series at the Emmys? She would fit the bill, after all.

T'would be sad to see that happen.

And yeah Nat, I can TOTALLY see the dykiness of Bening. Here's one way you could've said it:

"Bening is much more convincing as a gay woman than Jodie Foster is as a straight one."

Oh wait, that's still pretty inappropriate... ; )

adam k. said...

But in all seriousness, it should not come as a shock that some actors are great at playing gay when gay actors are quite often great at playing straight. We just never hear about it...

Is Bening in this film kind of the female equivalent of Justin Kirk in Angels in America? That was another "unusually authentic" perf.

Agustin said...

I think this may be the most fuckable cast in years!

steandric said...

Sony Classics have now launched the official website for "Mother and Child", confirming that Naomi Watts is the indisputable lead of the film.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to cry if Julianne jumps to TV before she's won an Oscar.

If she dies Oscar-less, that would be a scandal.

Mony said...

I have read good reviews for this film. I am interested in seeing it.

How were Mia and Josh's performances Nathaniel?

Out of thesynopsis for some films in Sundance, I am interested in Buried, Kids are Alright and Blue Valentine.


steandric -- are you being facetious? (about Naomi Watts being the indisputable lead?)

the film is another one of those dread two leads in the same film (of the same gender) cases where they'll cheat and make someone "lead" and someone "supporting"... but if anything Annette has the bigger role. ;)


Mony - they're both good young actors. They aren't really difficult parts but as i said in my review, Mia's final closeups are so wondrous i am now officially a fan.