Film Review

‘The Kids Are All Right’ and ‘Micmacs’

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[ontheaisle]

By Tony Macklin

“The Kids Are All Right” is a sudsy soap opera. It’s a concoction of lilac water and spermatozoa with lots of wine and whine.

The story of a contemporary lesbian family, the dysfunction hits the fan when the two children — 15-year-old Laser and 18-year-old Joni — seek contact with their moms’ sperm donor.

The best elements of the movie are the acting and direction. They are “fecund.” The five major roles are well-personified. Julianne Moore plays Jules, the vulnerable, passionate mom, and Annette Bening is Nic, the off-putting, neurotic, controlling mom of the family. Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson are winning as the siblings.

As sperm donor and free spirit Paul, Mark Ruffalo puts away his patented puppy dog expression for most of the movie, although the writers leave his role in shambles at the end. Go away, Mark, we’ve used your services.

Lisa Cholodenko — whose 2002 film “Laurel Canyon” may have been a better film — directed and co-wrote “The Kids Are All Right.” Her direction is strong.

The lengthy close-up of Bening’s face after she discovers that her partner had sex with someone else is brilliant, as is Bening’s muted, hysterical expression.

The writing by Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg is not as strong. For instance, although it may have actually happened, a scene with a dog seems contrived.

And after all the high drama, “The Kids Are All Right” settles for a negligible ending. We had to endure all that anguish and self-pity to find out at the end that “marriage is hard”? Maybe the message of “The Kids Are All Right” is that lesbians can use cliches, too.

‘Micmacs’

“Micmacs” is a Gallic mishmash. It’s a sloppy souffle that falls more than it rises. It’s airless whimsy.

“Micmacs” is the sporadic story of Bazil (Dany Boon), whose father was killed by a landmine in north Africa. Bazil himself is collaterally damaged when a shootout, outside the video store where he works, leaves a bullet in his skull.

Bazil is welcomed into an underground family of misfits — a contortionist, a human cannonball and the rest of a motley crew. He finally enlists their help to avenge himself on two arms manufacturers. But the road to vengeance is venal.

“MIcmacs” alludes to other, much superior movies, but when a movie does this it opens itself to further diminution. In a crucial scene, Bazil is watching “The Big Sleep” and speaking the dialogue along with Bogart and Bacall. “Micmacs” even borrows music from “The Big Sleep.” But it’s The Big Snooze.

Some reviewers have compared “Micmacs” to classic silent comedy. They actually have mentioned the sublime BK-I can’t bring myself to mention his name.

If in any way it’s BK-oriented, it’s Burger King, with droopy French fries.

The writing by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and scenarist Guillaume Laurant is weak.

If you appreciate a character (Remington) who continually speaks in cliches, and a conversation confusing “gaze” and “gays,” “Micmacs” may be for you.

It’s like a home movie that the moviemaker, his family and friends think is a ball. They mug at each other ad nauseum.

Boon is in the tradition of … nothing. Bazil’s “romantic” interludes with Elastic Girl are not in the same species with Bogey and Bacall.

Jeunet directs with coy tenacity and stubborn (not ingenious) emphasis on machines and gadgetry.

While it reminds some of silent comedy, for me it’s noisy plumbing.

Jeunet suddenly changes his tone near the end when he has characters holding photos of children who have been maimed and crippled by weapons.

He follows this with a sequence emphasizing how movies use trickery and artificiality.

Throughout “Micmacs,” Bazil’s patented gesture is smacking himself in the head.

I know the feeling. He smacked me, too.

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