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Movie review: 'The Kids Are All Right'

An exceptional drama about what it means to be family, with outstanding performances from Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.

July 08, 2010|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

Where Nic is brittle, Jules is the bough that breaks and in taking her there Moore is fearless. There are countless moments when the actress strips bare before the camera — sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally, but always with an abandon that exposes all of the character's complicated layers. Jules is an existential bundle of unrealized need and midlife uncertainty, and Moore plays every note perfectly.

The kids, who really serve as a counterweight for the craziness brought about by bio-dad's desire to have a place in their lives, are refreshingly real. Wasikowska, in particular, is exceptional — disappointment lingering in her eyes, face quivering on the edge of tears as one after another of her parents lets her down, as parents inevitably do. While she may be best known for her delightful Alice in Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," it is the mix of vulnerability and steel she brings to HBO's "In Treatment," as one of Gabriel Byrne's troubled clients, that most informs Joni.

Before they've finished wringing everything out of their actors, the filmmakers dredge through the issues — age old and thoroughly modern — that come along to threaten that most basic of bonds. Fierce, funny, smart and overflowing with love, this unconventionally conventional film sits squarely in the family values camp, which is exactly where it belongs.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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