More Than All Right
FILM REVIEW A chronicler of bohemian transgression has given us a gorgeous (funny) morality play LUKE BAUMGARTEN
It’s odd to think that writer-director Lisa Cholodenko is going less bohemian with this story of two lesbians, their two children and their one sperm donor, but there it is. Both her previous features, High Art (1998) and Laurel Canyon (2002), dealt with the arts and casual infidelity as a kind of forging fire that hones people to their truest selves.
The Kids Are All Right is much more conventional than that, in terms of its ethics and in terms of its structure. What Cholodenko has delivered here is almost a morality play in which the ways we hurt each other in these ruefully complex times are shown to be the ways we’ve been hurting each other since the beginning.
Neglect, unkindness, resentment, repression. These things don’t change, regardless of our sexual politics.
There’s little dottering around: We enter with a family at a point of transition. Jules (Julianne Moore), Mom No. 1, has just bought a truck for her new landscaping business (which has no clients yet). Her eldest daughter, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) has just turned 18, and her 15-year-old brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) asks Jules to contact their sperm donor. (Nic, played by Annette Bening, is Laser’s mother and Mom No. 2. Jules and Nic bore one child each — they used sperm, though, from the same guy.)
That guy turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the extremely hip though not traditionally educated (read: drop-out) owner of an extremely hip organic, locally-sourced restaurant named WYSIWYG.
Which creates some complications. It’s bad enough that “the moms,” as they’re called, have to say goodbye to Joni, who’s off soon to college. Even worse, Jules and Nic will have to share Joni, during her final summer at home, with this dude Paul — someone they’ve never regarded as human. (He was just a means to an end, but now the kids have grown attached to him.)
For Paul’s part, he’d nearly forgotten donating sperm as a 19-year-old, nearly 20 years ago. Finding out that he has not one, but two kids, is a shock.
The Kids Are All Right is all over pitch-perfect. The writing sings, the direction is uncomplex and unself-conscious, self-assured in its simplicity.
Tying it together are the gorgeous performances of Moore and Bening. The way Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg’s script plays with the subtle digs and slights in the relationship between Nic and Jules is revelatory. Over the course of a 20-year relationship, it turns out, partners get better at hurting the other, not worse. It’s odd that more screenwriters (or actors or directors) don’t realize this.
Ruffalo has said in an interview that Cholodenko was very free and trusting, letting him take the performance where he felt the character would. I have to assume that was the case with all the actors. You don’t turn in performances like Bening and especially Moore do here without being incredibly comfortable.
It’s impossible to describe their first interactions, around a table, the gang all gathered before meeting Paul for the first time. The couple trade smiling daggers that get at what will come to be their essential flaws: Jules is a flake, and Nic is a control freak.
It’s funny, and the exchange even feels warm, but you can tell in the eyes that there’s resentment.
I’d gone into the film thinking the primary battles would be the couple vs. the interloper sperm donor, fought on the field of their children’s affections. There’s some of that, sure, but it was clear then — about five minutes in — that The Kids Are All Right was going to be more about the parents who most definitely aren’t.
Paul — who always acts more as a cool older brother than a father — seems to connect with the kids better than either woman does, and that’s hard for the moms to accept.
And while the film is beautifully acted, one climactic scene could not have come about except through perfect writing. There, Cholodenko and Blumberg touch on the kind of helplessness that comes from years spent seeing yourself reflected in your partner, a kind of objectification I’ve never heard put quite this way.
It’s not an excuse, it’s an apology, offered with all the contriteness you might expect from good, caring, flawed moms like these kids have.
I was chewing on that scene through the final minutes.
What sealed The Kids Are All Right as a classic film about family came at the very end, though —when I realized the credits were rolling and one absolutely crucial element of the plot had been left beautifully and necessarily unresolved.
Instead of a lot of "meh" shows, this weekend's has a few really great ones. Behold:
Punks and Goonies fans collide tonight at Empyrean when The Ataris take the stage. Those silly punkers made an album — So Long, Astoria — a few years back that made several nods to the 1980s cult classic. They're cool in my book. They play with Small Town Nation and the Toy Garden at 6:30 pm. All-ages. $5.
It's a triple threat! It's a spendy show, but when you break it down you're really only paying $8.50 per band. DUDE. LA darlings Silversun Pickups play tonight with Against Me! and the up and coming back, the Henry Clay People. 8 pm. $24.50 - $26. All-ages. (Read our story on Silversun Pickups here and our review of Against Me!'s latest here.)
She's gonna be a big effing deal. Well, at least if she keeps at the pace she's at now. Sara Jackson-Holman (who we wrote about here) takes the Empyrean stage tomorrow night with Cave Country, Wonder Wonder and Heroshine. Sweet, vintage sounding melodies. Very nice, indeed. 7 pm. $7. All-ages.
Maybe they're staying? Pour Soi — a band we thought called it quits last year — is back on the Seaside stage tomorrow night for another reunion show. They play with proggy Portlanders, OxcarT, tomorrow night at 7 pm. $5. Gotta be 21.
Vote Fox! The ballots are in the mail, and any coverage is good coverage, right candidates? Not this kind. David Fox, one of a handful of people challenging U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, made headlines again today after calling police and accusing another man of assault. Apparently Fox, who moved from Port Angeles to run for Congress, was making unwanted sexual advances toward the man. "I just hit him, I went crazy," the man told police. Today's article also tells how Fox has skipped out on a restaurant bill in the few short weeks he's "lived" here. Fox has been in the news before, as reported earlier in The Inlander. It's just too much to print here. But, really, you've got to read it... (SR)
Lawyers have ethics rules? Judges in Stevens County have asked the Washington State Bar Association to look into possible improper compensation for the county prosecutor, Tim Rasmussen. The complaint alleges that Rasmussen's charity accepted gifts from criminal defense attorneys who "might wish to achieve a more favorable result in a criminal case pending in Stevens County." What's the asking price on that? O.B.O.?(KREM)
We're all "brothers" — even women! Reporting on the Post Falls mini-Sturgis event (a motorcycle rally of sorts), the Coeur d'Alene Press gets all biker on us today by saying we're all "brothers." Hm. I think I'd rather be a "Sister Christian" or something. (CdA Press)
And, for lighter reading, no reading at all! Today, the New York Times put up a slideshow of some of the strange things confiscated at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in the Big Apple. Things like a bird corpse, an army of bongs, a pitcher of salami and oxalis tuberosa. Yay! (NYT)
Oh boy, can the world get enough Steve Carell and his big nose? At Inlander HQ, the answer is no! (Check out our review of his latest film, Dinner for Schmucks.)
Here's Carrell in his full glory with Zach Galifianaki in the latest episode of Between Two Ferns...
Yesterday we came across the Facebook page for a new downtown Spokane bike shop called the Breaking Away Bicycle Company (the reference should be obvious to cyclists or anyone who grew up around the late '70s), so we emailed owner Matt Holbert to get the skinny. We got his answers back just now. So, first, maybe you could give us a little background on yourself.
I grew up in western Indiana and as a student at Indiana University rode in a cycling event that was featured in the movie Breaking Away. In the fall of 1978 I rode as an extra during the filming of the track scenes for that movie. Since graduating, I have mainly been a runner but ironically enough got back into cycling after colliding with an SUV while riding my bike on the South Hill. An acupuncturist dealing with the aftermath of the resulting injuries recommended that I quit running. Cycling was okay as long as I yielded to large, moving objects.
Tell us about the bike shop you just opened.
I became certified as a Bicycle Technician in the fall of last year and decided to open my own shop after being unable to find a position at a couple of local bike shops. My 340 square foot location in the Hutton Building at Washington and Sprague was attractive to me because it was downtown and required little or no build out. This allows me to test the market without incurring much in the way of up-front costs. The savings can then be passed along to the customer.
My goal is to serve the cycling community in much the same way as R.E.I. served the climbing community in the early days. When a customer pays for services and components, they become de facto members of a club that owns the tools and has the ability to buy wholesale. There are no executives or managers and there is not the expense and/or ecological damage of flying board members from Bozeman to Seattle. By not stocking merchandise, I can be extremely competitive with pricing. Most items can be picked up within 24-48 hours of ordering. ---
Your website seems to suggest that you're more than just a bike shop. You have a kind of philosophical bent, too. How do you see that playing into the business?
My personal philosophy centers around the quest for quality. In order to better recognize quality, one must be exposed to a wide range of experiences and ideas. I have attempted to do this over the past few years — primarily through reading a broad range of books. For those who have an interest, a large selection of those books can be found at my shop and I'll be happy to let you borrow them.
One component of quality is a lack of pollution — noise, water, air, etc. Cycling is the most efficient form of transportation known. This dovetails nicely into my goal of enticing people to consider a system that enables them to live well with a small footprint.
What are the advantages or disadvantages of the location you found? What do you plan to do with it?
The lack of natural light may be the biggest challenge and this can be remedied with better lighting. It would also be better if Sprague were a two-way street. On-street parking is readily available, however, and I'll feed the meter if you don't have change. In time, I may need to reconfigure the space in order to be more efficient.
How do you view the bike scene in Spokane? Where do you think we are? What do we still need, and where do you see the scene going?
I am just beginning to get plugged into the cycling scene. I was surprised at the number of organized groups and events. We have a long way to go before we catch up with Portland. However, I think Spokane has many characteristics that are attractive to the serious cyclist and it seems that the cycling population is growing.
The key, however, is to get on the bike rather than getting in the car — and make it a way of life. What we need is a carbon tax rather than income tax. Once vehicle owners pay the true cost of driving, we'll all be in the saddle.
The latest radio commercial in Michael Baumgartner's campaign to unseat Sen. Chris Marr pushes his roots in the Eastern Washington.
After saying Baumgartner grew up in the Inland Northwest and attended Gonzaga Prep, the commercial details his overseas career for the U.S. State Department.
"But where Michael Baumgartner has been," the commercial says, "isn't as important as where he's going."
But, as reported earlier in The Inlander, Baumgartner attended Gonzaga Prep for just two years and mainly grew up in Pullman. Some people have used these facts to undercut his campaign, suggesting he is an outsider fueled only by political ambition. Baumgartner says he's always considered Spokane home base, if not home.
Hear the commercial here.
I totally thought of soft peanut brittle on my own, too In a classic David versus Goliath match-up, Carol Measel, who owns the tiny little downtown Bruttles shop, isn't remaining quiet about her falling out with the Davenport Hotel. Bruttles, which makes the scrumptious soft peanut butter brittle, lost its lease with the hotel, but now sits across the street — in a bigger space, and with ice cream. As for Walt Worthy, the hotel's owner, he's forging ahead with recipes of his own. "We had the idea for the soft peanut brittle prior to meeting her," he says. (KXLY)
12,000 pounds of dead fish Brand spanking new and the recipient of a lot of dead carp. That's Barr-Tech, which became the lucky owner of all those fish that died kinda mysteriously in Long Lake recently. And you don't even want to know what they're going to do with it all. Nasty! Oh, wait. Turn it into energy? That's cool. (SR)
Watch out for hikers, loggers, grizzlies, etc. Some 215,000 acres might get added to the Colvillie National Forest and everybody's supportive. Everybody as in loggers, hikers, mountain bikers, ATV-ers, ranchers... But first, they have to battle the armies of grizzlies, lynx and woodland caribou. Then, in a more frightful move, they seek congressional approval. (SR)
First the ukulele and slide guitar, now this As early as this Friday, tons of Hawaiian garbage could make its way up the Columbia River gorge and find its final resting place here, in Klickitat County. Sure, the mainland is way bigger than those five islands, but it just seems nasty. Here's a plan: Get a breakdown of which tourists come from where and ship the refuse accordingly. Japan would get, like, half of it. (Oregonian)
Happy Birthday NASA! Great job on that whole moon shot thing, and good luck on surviving the next wave of budget cuts!
Do you ever have this problem? We sure do. Think about it for a second: It's hard to get any eight-limbed denizens of the deep in this town, unless you cotton to calamari.
Well, we have good news to report, cephalopod seekers (and lovers of artfully prepared regional cuisine in general) — Italia Trattoria (144 S. Cannon St.) has finally opened in Browne's Addition, and there's mollusk on the menu.
The charred octopus, spicy tomato oil and lemon parsley salad ($8), is part of a varied dinner antipasti menu that includes tuna crudo ($8), a beef carpaccio and basil bread salad ($10), and that old favorite, a prosciutto and melon salad ($12). Entrees are going to run you $15-20. The lunch menu includes no less than eight types of bruschetta ($10-13).
We could go on and on, but we'd rather just post the menus: —-
There will also be weekend brunches, the menus for which weren't completed.
Word of Italia Trattoria's opening leaked out on the Twitter and Facebook pages of the close friends of Anna Vogel and Bethe Bowman on Wednesday, the morning after their first dinner service. That's exactly the way the co-owners wanted it.
"From the beginning we decided we would just open the doors and let people trickle in," Bowman said.
The Trattoria is open:
Lunch Tues-Fri 11am-3 pm
Dinner Tues-Sat 3pm-close
Brunch Sat and Sun9 am-3 pm
The Inlander reported in January that prescription drugs were killing more and more people in Spokane County every year. Today, the New York Times reports that Washington state is taking the lead in regulating how doctors prescribe such powerful, addictive drugs as OxyContin, fentanyl and methadone.
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When is the winner announced???