Tuesday, July 20, 2010

All Right, All Right, All Right, All Right, All Right, Okay now ladies

The Kids Are All Right finally opened in Boston, and my beloved and I went to a matinee. (Cough–Old!) We laughed, we cried, we cringed. Overall, I loved it. But of course I, like the rest of the lesbian community, have some issues with it. We're here, we're queer, we're easily offended, get used to it.

Nonetheless, I think Lisa Cholodenko is a remarkable filmmaker, and she has made a remarkable film. And Annette Bening's powerful performance as an alpha dyke whose world shifts under her feet will get her an Oscar nomination, and probably a win. It will be deserved. The dinner party scene at the donor's apartment is brilliant, just brilliant. [Spoiler alert!] Bening goes from vulnerable—singing at the table—to devastated. And Bening—with some skilled directing from Cholodenko—acutely conveyed the unspoken internal anguish of her character. But back to Cholodenko for a minute. I like to think she and I might have crossed paths, or at least passed each other in the hall, while we overlapped at the same university for grad school. But, alas, the only person in the film I can say with certainty that I've ever met is Julianne Moore (more on that later). I thought Cholodenko's Laurel Canyon was superb, and I can't help but notice Kids/All Right is similar in many ways. For example, both films include:

1. A mechanical and unsatisfying sex scene near the beginning of the film designed to show an otherwise fabulous couple to be suffering from a common human condition known as a blah sex life.
2. A motorcycle symbolizing the ultimate in sexiness and freedom. (Including similar motorcycle-related dialogue along the lines of, "Get on. Hold on tighter.")
3. Type A person represented as a physician.
4. Well-worn 80s rock T-shirts: AC/DC in Laurel Canyon, Elvis Costello in Kids/All Right.
5. Inspiration drawn from Joni Mitchell and the California sunshine.

I could go on. But I don't think these similarities detract from the film. Indeed, I also believe Woody Allen is a great filmmaker, and eighty percent of his films have the same setting, same neurotic characters, and same references to Nietzsche.

Okay, so what are the problems with this film? The vitriol on AfterEllen is all about the hetero invasion of the lesbian relationship. Lots of our sisters are proclaiming they refuse to see the film because it perpetuates the myth that all lesbians secretly crave a man. I, too, was concerned when I originally heard of the plot. But I gave Cholodenko the benefit of the doubt, and I have been vindicated. The hetero invasion ultimately failed. The male stud was rebuffed. The lesbians triumphed.

But I do have a nagging concern, which was the portrayal of lesbian sex in Kids/All Right. Why oh why, Lisa Cholodenko, did you make it look so dismal? Yes, the gay male porn thing was funny, and, yes, this movie is a comedy—or dramedy. But everything else about the scene was just hard to watch. I understand that the goal here was to make the lesbians look just like any other "normal" middle-aged married couple, miserable sex life and all. But did you have to make it look so bad in front of company? You know, straight people who don't know better? My one comfort is that legions of heterosexuals already have been schooled in the wonders of lesbian sex by watching The L Word.

Another somewhat minor complaint is that, unlike Bening, Julianne Moore just did not set off my gaydar. Maybe it's because she was shagging a dude during a good part of the film. But, apart from that, there was something a bit off. Did anyone else think so?

Now for my Julianne Moore story: It was maybe 1994 or 1995 on a cool overcast day in New York City. I was wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket. My then-girlfriend and I were walking down 8th Avenue near the Joyce Theater when we passed a small, attractive woman with curly red hair. My ex said, "Julie?" They stopped, perhaps hugged, and said things like: It's been so long, how are you, etc. I was eventually introduced as the girlfriend. Julie was friendly, but the whole thing felt a little awkward. After we parted, my ex explained that Julie, an actress, had recently divorced or was divorcing a relative. Julie—Julianne Moore—was not yet very famous. She had been on some soaps and in a bad movie with Hugh Grant, and I had not heard of her. But, you know, she might have taken better notes on the lesbian in the motorcycle jacket. Might have helped her develop her dyke vibe for a future role.

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