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The Kids Are All Right: movie review

In 'The Kids Are All Right,' a family drama with a twist, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo are in their element.

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Positioned somewhere between sitcom and piercing human drama, “The Kids Are All Right,” is both overtly familiar and cutting edge.

A daughter is about to leave home for college, throwing her family into disarray. That’s the familiar part. What’s cutting edge is that her parents are a lesbian couple and her biological father, who enters the picture after she and her younger brother seek him out, was the anonymous sperm donor to each of her two mothers.

Director Lisa Cholodenko and her co-screenwriter, Stuart Blumberg, are pouring new wine into an old bottle, but their point seems to be that the new wine isn’t really all that new. Once you adjust to the offbeat dynamics, the family complications in “The Kids Are All Right” are almost reassuringly recognizable.

The parents are Nic (Annette Bening), a Los Angeles physician, and Jules (Julianne Moore), a waywardly employed homebody who wants to work in landscape design. Eighteen-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and 15-year-old Laser (Josh Hutcherson) are the children. Unmarried Paul (Mark Ruffalo) is the randy restaurateur and organic farmer who gets the surprise news from them that he’s a father twice over.

Ruffalo has had an uneven career since his breakthrough performance in “You Can Count on Me,” but here, as in that film, he’s in his element playing a character who is an amalgam of wily and lackadaisical. Paul has never really attached himself emotionally to anybody, least of all to a woman, and at first he regards his newfound offspring as curiosities. After their amiably tense (and well-written) introductory meeting, all he can think to say is, “Keep in touch.”

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