Review of “The Kids Are All Right”

This is, naturally, the place where some queer women will balk. God, not again. Not another lesbian cheating on her partner with a man. No, no, no.

But you see, it’s not like that. It’s not about wanting a man, being unsatisfied with women or not being gay in the first place. It’s about what makes people cheat in a relationship. It’s there. It’s new. It feels good. It patches what seems to be broken. It hurts those who are hurting us. It’s not pretty, but it’s real. This doesn’t excuse the action, but gay, straight, what have you — people cheat.

In lesser hands, you’d hate them for it. As tenderly, often hilariously, tended by Bening and Moore, you just feel for them. These two veteran actresses have found the perfect pitch together. They feel lived in, but without using any of the generic shorthand other movies use to make them so. Their conversations are filled with all the sharpness and silences that creep in when you know someone, inside and out.

Bening, in particular, is brilliant — her face a delicate latticework of emotion. Nic doesn’t miss a beat, but can be obtuse when it counts most. Moore layers yearning and a well-meaning striving into Jules. You sense that she has never felt quite worthy of her doctor wife. Wasikowska, who entered a wonderland earlier this summer for Tim Burton, brings the confusion and unexpected perception that comes with being almost an adult.

Much has been made about how The Kids Are All Right could be the lesbian Brokeback Mountain. The beauty of Ang Lee’s heartbreaking masterpiece was that it made Midwestern housewives leave the theater saying, “Gosh, I sure wish those gay cowboys could have worked things out.”

The genius of The Kids Are All Right is that it makes everyone leave the theater saying, “I sure hope that nice couple can work it out.”

The Kids Are All Right opened Friday in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. A wider release is set to follow.

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