Monday, July 12, 2010

All Right Now

Love makes a family.

We chant it at our rallies. We plaster it on our bumpers. It’s as true as four words strung together can be.

But love is easy.

Marriage is hard.

For a marriage to work it takes love, first and foremost. But it also takes commitment, responsibility, communication, trust, compassion, forgiveness. Lose any and any marriage can become vulnerable – gay, straight, whathaveyou.

I expected to laugh at “The Kids Are All Right.” And I did, a lot, at its sharp elbows and keen observations. I did not expect to cry as much as I did at “The Kids Are All Right.” But I did, a lot. It wasn’t the jagged sobs that come with pulled heartstrings. But real tears that come with the realization of something broken that you want badly to be fixed.

After hearing so much about the film, my expectation were high while my mood was anxious. Anyone who has seen the trailer knows my trepidation. [Spoiler Alert: Key plot points follow.]

You see, this is a movie about a marriage, a lesbian marriage. Nic and Jules (the amazing, amazing duo of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) have been together for two decades and have two teenage kids. But it is also a movie about a lesbian marriage where one of the partners cheats with a man.

That will make some people very mad, and understandably so. It’s an infuriating cliché. The lesbian who leaves her partner for a man. The lesbian who was really just going through a phase. The lesbian who secretly craves dick.

Yet you know what, it’s not about any of that here. Those portrayals come from a place of deep-seated homophobia. A belief that lesbianism doesn’t really exist, that all a gay lady needs is a good man. That is not where the infidelity in “The Kids Are All Right” comes from. This is not to say that because director Lisa Cholodenko is lesbian means she is automatically immune from these criticisms. But this is most definitely not a movie that thinks lesbians are make believe.

What makes a gay movie, or any gay representation, good is honestly. The movies that show us as undeniably human. Still to be seen as such is no small feat sometimes considering there are those who think we are too unworthy to even share space on the planet with them. Those who think our every existence is an abomination.

These people are wrong, of course. They could not be more wrong.

But it is also wrong to think that only the most angelic portrayals of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people will change their minds. Really, almost nothing will change those people's minds – small and hate-filled as they are.

But there are plenty of other minds that can be changed: the people who think we’re icky, the people who aren’t sure about us teaching their kids, the people who casually vote down our right to love legally until death do us part.

Portrayal of a couple like Nic and Jules, trying their best to love each other until death do them part, is what makes a difference. At once so recognizable yet so new, they are a couple you could know. You might know. You’d want to know.

Seeing their problems play out, you feel for them intrinsically. You cry for them, with them. You laugh with them, at them. You even roll your eyes at them with their kids. Oh, Momses!

What Ilene Chaiken will never understand is that we don’t want our gay characters to be perfect. We want them to be real. We want to feel, as different as their lives may be, that we can relate. We want them to be true.

The truth is what makes “The Kids Are All Right” not only a good gay movie, but a good movie period. The truth is what makes you care about this family, and hope that they will truly be all right.

[NOTE: Read my full review of “The Kids Are All Right” on AfterEllen today. Yes, I have even more to say. You just can’t shut me up. I’m almost insufferable.]


cee-cee said...

ahhhhhhhhhh, love DOES make a family, doesn't it? And since the film and media moguls are impressed/swayed by "numbers" rather than mere quality, it's great news that the film did so well where it was shown. That should lead to a wider distribution. Cannot wait to see it!

Anonymous said...

I loved it too! Their relationship was very realistic. It is not easy to be married, whether you're gay, straight or in-between. End of story. You lose touch, get distracted, hurt feelings, but hopefully can come back together and remember why you love that person.

I thought their personalities were somewhat caricatures of LA lesbians (esp. Jules), but that is also what added humor to the movie.

Mark Ruffalo came across well as a jerk that you really didn't like, even though he had some valid points and you could feel a little sorry for him.

Anonymous said...

I don't see anyone saying that lesbians should only be portrayed in a perfect way. But the fact that A LOT of lesbian relationships in the media involve guys is really, really problematic. Is it really too much to ask for a lesbian relationship that doesn't involve a guy?

vrgriffith said...

I'm right there with you to a point.

Having one of the partners, have an affair with a man is Such a cliche!
Could this film have retained its "realness" if she had an affair with a younger woman? Or a woman in her book club, on her LGBTQ community center committee, her softball team, in her friendship circle?

Why did it have to be a man? And believe me I'm not playing favorites. I am African American and had many concerns about the movie Precious. There have been many great books published by Black writers, so why did this particular story get greenlit?

Anonymous said...

I'm with the two posters above me. The movie would have been just as truthful, if not even more so, had Jules cheated with another woman. Also, I do not know any lesbian who likes gay male porn. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Well, I know plenty of lesbians that like gay male porn. That being said, TKAreAR made me sad, not because of the marriage problems, which were very well written and portrayed. Maybe i'm dating myself as a lesbian who came out in the 90s, but assimiliation is not a goal for me. I think this film plays better for the non-gay Hollywood movie going masses than for me and my non-upper middle class, divorced lesbian parents family.

Anonymous said...

i don't know the movie
other story,

I think divorce is fine.
my conclusion is that lesbianism is not the
real issues, and believe that you don't want me
at that point.

another thing,

I don't see things like some people here sometimes,
as a person who doing visual things,

I never mean white = caucasian
black = african.

if you have pride what you're doing you might
not want to use it for that kind reason.

thanks for the posting,
If you don't get what I said,
forget it.

Polly said...

Thank you Ms. Snarker. Am speeding over to your AfterEllen review as quick as I can and for as long as my 3.5 yr old son's currently otherwise engaged attention stays engaged.

My favorite from this: "we don’t want our gay characters to be perfect. We want them to be real." True that.

It's a subtle thing to do what Cholodenko (and Blumberg) have done, to go for the proverbial juggular (this plotline) and then use IT as a tool (!) to dismantle that plotline's validity. If that makes sense. To me, it does. It's sublte, but I think that's totally what's at work. Bold move, Ms. Cholodenko.

Anonymous said...

Judging by your remark about your inbox being a black hole, I'll try a comment first:

I don't know what you did to your website, but since about a week (wild guess) it's become unusable. I load the page, see the top post appearing and then when it's done loading the page turns blank. This happens in Firefox 4 beta and Safari 5, both on Mac OS X. If I disable javascript the page loads just fine.

Anonymous said...

so polly,
you mean your children are gay?
or will be gay?
what if you don't have any?
what do you want here?

Anonymous said...

the comment was me,
not ds,

a daughter of nice dad
we learned how to respect from good people
instead of mean and ..... people who
always want to win a battle that their own. and
nobody wants to involve.

Care said...

I'm really excited to see this movie! Normally I don't go to see movies in theatres {student budget}, but pretty much any realistic portayal of lesbians will get me to the box office.

I also wanted to mention how beautifully written I found this post. Your blog's eye candy is great, but the insightful writing is what keeps me coming back :)

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie on Friday night and I absolutely loved it. I went into the theater a little disappointed after I heard Jules cheats on Nic, more disappointed that she cheated than that it was with a man. But I must say that the movie was real, funny, and witty with great writing, acting, directing, etc, etc. This is the best movie I've seen in a long time (and I'm not just talking about 'lesbian' movie). I know people are complaining about how it somehow betrays lesbians because she sleeps with a man. But I think that this movie is way ahead of its time because it fits in a world where lesbian, gay, straight, transgender, whatever you are doesn't matter. It's just a good movie with great storytelling.

*don't read below if you haven't seen the movie*

And I loved Nic's character, how she may have been controlling and slightly overbearing but her intuition gets mistaken for craziness. I can totally relate! Everyone says you're crazy and you're imagining things but in the end, she was right all along and had every right to freak out that the core of her family was threatened! And the scene where she realizes Jules has been cheating on her? Brilliant! The suspense of how she would react. I could feel her blood boiling and the panic setting in but she somehow maintains her composure and holds it together at the dinner table.

I love this movie and if people are going to not watch it because she sleeps with a man, then they are missing out on an amazing movie!

Sorry such a long comment.

Anonymous said...

So Ms. Cholodenko basically just said that we should just be proud/greatful that any gay film is being shown. Yeah, no.

Sorry but even if the film is good, I'm tired of that fucking cliche. Wake me up when a film is finally beyond this.

MissMissy said...

Perhaps it's because of my personal experience, but I didn't find the cheating-with-a-man storyline to be offensive. I've known three separate halves of lesbian couples who have cheated on their partners with men--so it seems within the realm of realism.

I've also known halves of lesbian couples who have cheated on their partners with women...hetero women who have cheated on their partners with women, hetero women who have cheated on their partners with other men, hetero men who have cheated on their. . . . (etc., etc.)

I think you're spot-on when you say that we don't want perfection in gay characters, we want *real* characters--cheating (with whomever) is sadly a very real human fallacy.

Anonymous said...

No, we don't want "real" characters in our movies. They're boring and won't make money. No one is going to write the story of my 20 year relationship where both of us are still madly in love with each other and have never cheated. Where she stood by my side during breast cancer and we got through it together. It's too mundane and apparently not nearly enough cock.

I'm seriously disappointed to hear about this part of the sl.

Anonymous said...

if cheated with a man, how..she is les?

I know another true story, this person is really
exist. She get married with a man and having
two children who were teens at the moment they divorced. the reason she decided it,
because she fell in love with a woman.

nobody made this as a movie because,
it sounds crazy and we all knew that the man
will kill everyone who goes into theatre. literally.
not really kill.

my answer is like this situation,
whew..hope you guys all very well.
I don't want be around at all.

Norma Desmond said...

You may be a lot of things, Ms. Snarker, but insufferable is not one of them.

Definitely will be seeing this.

tlsintx said...

Wasn't it Madonna who said "I'm attracted to attractive people...". Maybe sexual attraction/orientation/identification/expression is a lot, LOT more fluid than we have the capacity to allow it to be...

...maybe the next exercise for us is to stop with the labels and just study the humanity.

acidburn said...

Thanks for the review! I was actually on the fence about whether to watch this or not (if it ever comes to my part of the woods) but your review kinda pushed me in the direction of watching it. I just wasn't sure if it was gonna be another fluffy derivative cliche-ridden movie about lesbians but it sounds to me like a good study on human character and marriages in general. It doesn't hurt too that it has Julianne Moore and Annette Benning. Besides I'm all for supporting films that deal with Lesbian issues in the hopes that someday Hollywood will actually think that they are worth making and there's a market for them.

Anonymous said...

I liked this movie and found it thought provoking. The lesbian wanting dick was not the heart of the story at all but it does reinforce a stereotype because the heterosexism in our world is so pervasive it cannot avoid reinforce that stereotype. ( The only thing I hated was the sex scene where she seemed so thrilled to see dick - sorry but that didn't seem necessary to me.)

As soon as I heard she cheated with the sperm donor I knew it wasn't just a man but someone who would really really hurt her partner for her to cheat with. She didn't do it consciously intentionally but she knew what boundaries she was crossing and did it because she couldn't woman up and say why her marriage was hurting her.

Worth seeing and talking about - it will not change anyone's minds about whether lesbians are people who deserve respect IMO. It does defend a lesbian family but in a way that is too fucked up for middle america to get - that's what I think.

Still I liked the complications of kids wanting to know their biological dad and how that is a hurdle for lesbian families.

Anonymous said...

i could easily see myself having a relationship with a man. that's part of me, a lesbian. and many lesbians are that way. thanks to all of those before us who have enabled us to love whom we want to love. and since i really DO live in the land of the free, CANADA, i can legally love anyone.