On the surface, “The Kids Are All Right” is a movie about an unconventional family, because it is about what happens when two teenagers, who are raised by two lesbian mothers, seek out the anonymous sperm-donor father whom they never knew. But beneath the surface, the dramedy tackles universal issues, such as teenage rebellion and parents who struggle with the idea that their kids are growing up and becoming more independent.
In “The Kids Are All Right” (directed by Lisa Cholodenko), Annette Bening plays Nic, a no-nonsense doctor who has raised two children with her longtime partner, Jules (played by Julianne Moore), who has been primarily a stay-at-home mother. Nic gave birth to Joni (played by Mia Wasikowska), and Jules gave birth to Laser (played by Josh Hutcherson) through the use of the same sperm donor, whom they discover to be a free-spirited restaurant owner named Paul (played by Mark Ruffalo). As the family gets to know Paul before Joni heads off for college, the family dynamic changes in unexpected ways. While filming “The Kids Are All Right” on location in Southern California, Bening, Wasikowska and Hutcherson talked about this unusual and highly praised movie.
What is the main theme to “The Kids Are All Right”?
Bening: It’s about family. It’s a real classic family story. Partners who’ve been together their whole life with a couple of teenage kids, and all the joys and the struggles and the ups and the downs that go with that. I just loved it from when I read it.
Annette Bening, filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko and Julianne Moore on the set of “The Kids Are All Right”
How would you describe Nic and Jules in “The Kids Are All Right”?
Bening: I see Nic as pretty straightforward. I loved playing her because of that. Nic is a doctor [with] two teenage kids and a long-term relationship with her partner. [Nic] wants to do the best she can and doesn’t always get it right, but wants to take care of her family.
Wasikowska: Nic and Jules are very different characters, and I think Joni has a different relationship with both of them. I think they definitely bring out different things in Joni’s personality. I think Nic is a little bit harder to please and probably has higher expectations, in terms of doing well in school. And Jules is a little more relaxed on that front. I think that [Joni] is very close with both of her mothers. It’s a nice relationship.
Hutcherson: Nic, in the movie, is kind of the more enforcer and the more of the straight-edge kind of mother. And Jules is kind more like my mom in real life. “You’re free to do what you want. Everything’s OK. It’s all right. Don’t get upset about anything.”
Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson in “The Kids Are All Right”
What was it like working with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore?
Hutcherson: Working with Annette and Julianne was amazing. You look at their résumés and you look at their careers and how much they’ve done and how well-respected they are in the industry, and to have both of them playing your moms, I couldn’t imagine it in my life. I had a three-page scene with just me, Annette and Julianne Moore. And I never thought in my entire life when I started acting that I’d be having a scene with a seven-time Academy Award-nominated people. It was amazing. They’re so down-to-earth and so nice and everything and more that I could ever have wanted them to be.
Big-screen movies usually don’t have feature lesbian mothers as central characters. Can you talk about that unique angle to the story?
Bening: We always want to sort of expand our understanding of each other as people, so maybe there are some people who [think this is] a less familiar situation or a less familiar family grouping. And if there’s anything movies can do in a way that I just love, and I love as an audience is, “Show me something I don’t know about. Show me something I haven’t seen.”
Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
“The Kids Are All Right” has a lot of comedy that people might not expect. What are your thoughts on the comedic aspects to the film?
Wasikowska: It was kind of unlike anything I had read before. It was very unique and different. It’s like a comedy-drama. It’s got these comical moments and then these really moving, deeper scenes which I really liked. I thought it had the perfect balance of both. And of course, the creative team was fantastic, so that definitely attracted me to the project.
Bening: It’s got a sense of humor, and that I love. In a way, it’s harder. It’s easier to earnest. It’s easier to be sentimental in telling a story. What’s hard is to find those wrinkles ad the gray areas of life where you’re not quite sure who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy and who’s doing the right thing and who’s doing the wrong thing. And all of those kinds of questions that come up in good drama I think that [“The Kids Are All Right” co-writers] Lisa [Cholodenko] and Stuart [Blumberg] managed to find in the original screenplay. We were trying to bring all that stuff to life.
For more info: “The Kids Are All Right” website
RELATED LINKS ON dampfang.com:
Interview with Annette Bening for “Mother and Child”
Interview with Mia Wasikowska for “Alice in Wonderland”
“Alice in Wonderland” press conference
Interview with Julianne Moore for “The Kids Are All Right”
Interview with Mark Ruffalo for “The Kids Are All Right”
“The Kids Are All Right” news and reviews
Photo credits: Photo #1: Getty Images. All other photos: Focus Features.