The Kids are All Right, But I’m Not Sure About the Parents

Rating: Plum

Well, it’s that time of year again.  When I go to the supermarket or the mall, I feel like I’m inside a tornado of glitter, chocolate, and (shudder) pink. 

When I was in high school, I was ambivalent toward Valentine’s Day.  With my friends, I would joke about it being Singles Awareness Day and, secretly, wait for some token from a secret admirer.  It was typically a day marked by those little paper valentines that don’t really mean anything, too much chocolate, and a twinge of disappointment. 

Now that I am a bit older, I think that Valentine’s Day is actually amazing.  Now, it is true, I am a complete romantic.  I adore movies with the “happily ever after” motif and when someone special brings me flowers, my day brightens. 

The joy that I find in Valentine’s Day comes from how I define it.  Sure, it was created by the greeting card companies, but why not create a holiday centered around love?  In a world that is filled with so many emotions that do not even resemble love, why not take dedicate one day to showing your love for the people in your life.  Why call it Singles Awareness Day, focusing on that romantic love that you may not have yet, when you may have so many other people in your life who you do love? 

The film, The Kids Are All Right, explores different types of love, the evolution of love, as well as how love can change us.  This is a story of two moms in a committed relationship raising two children borne from artificial insemination and the impact that meeting the sperm doner/father can have on all of their lives.

This is a story of love and the crazy things that it can make us do. 

It is a wonderful premise for this cutting-edge movie, but, unfortunately, for me, it falls flat.  I won’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but it is a movie that starts off with fabulous potential.  For the first half hour or so, I thought that it was witty, unique and completely enjoyable.  As it continued, I became less and less engaged, feeling like this was a movie I had seen before, a movie I hadn’t liked the first time.  When we reached the story’s conclusion, I smiled, not because the ending had satisfied me, but because the movie was over and I could go to bed.  Personally, I think that the film reached the popularity it has because of its trendy subject matter as opposed to its “greatness” as a film.  The same could probably be said for some of the other nominees, most notably The Social Network .  This subject matter is important, but I just don’t think they did justice to it. 

I did not love this movie. 

One question that served as an undertone for this entire film was, “Is love the only thing that you need to have a successful relationship?”

As the movie reveals, that answer is no. 

I set about thinking , with the movie as inspiration, what else you need to build a successful relationship, whether that relationship be familial, friendship, or romantic.  Below are the ten components that I concluded you must add to love to build and maintain the important relationships in your life. 

  • Patience
  • Humor to laugh at yourself and at the other person
  • Forgiveness, and an understanding of where the line is between those actions that should be forgiven and those that cannot be
  • Joy in each others’ company
  • Inside Jokes
  • Comfort so you don’t feel like you have to put on a show or a facade.  Be completely yourself.
  • Free from judgement- This goes with comfort.  Once you have let someone into your heart, don’t judge them for every tiny thing.  If you are always nit-picking, you don’t get to see the full picture. 
  • Two-way street- No relationship can be one-sided.  If it seems like you are putting all of the thought and effort into the relationship, then maybe you should take the hint.
  • Respect- How can you love someone without respecting yourself or respecting that person?
  • Freedom- You may have all of the above characteristics, but if you don’t have the freedom to be yourself and do what you want when you are around that person, something is wrong. 

So there is my formula.  Like any good recipe, you may find yourself substituting other ideas for mine.  As Valentine’s Day approaches, perhaps it would be a good idea to look at the important relationships in your life and evaluate them based on these ideas.  Nick and Jules (in the movie) certainly had to. 

Visuals: 3/5

Plot: 3.5/5

Acting: 5/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  Are you going to band together to take down The King’s Speech?  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.

Academy Award Nominees so far in order…

Chocolate-Orange Shortbread Cookies (Heart-shaped for Valentine’s Day)

In the film, Mark Ruffalo’s character owns a restaurant where he focuses on creating recipes with local and organic ingredients.  The most notable of these is his strawberry-rhubarb pie.  Living in the North-east during February, that recipe would certainly not be local right now.  In place of that, I thought about what is more in-season at this time of year and I thought of citrus. 

In my search for citrus recipes, I found this recipe at simplyrecipes.com.  It seemed perfect to me because, just like the combination of strawberry and rhubarb, it combined two ingredients that shouldn’t go together, but totally do.  Just like Nick and Jules in the movie, sometimes two completely different flavors come together to create something very special. 

I adapted the recipe slightly to make a 1-bowl version, so here it is.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon of orange zest

Precedure

  • Preheat oven to 325F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl to create a more tender cookie.  
  • In that same bowl, add the rest of the ingredients.  With a pastry blender or your fingers, incorporate all of the ingredients until the dough feels like wet sand. 
  • Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and place the dough on it. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin.

  • Cut into desired shapes (hearts!) and place on the baking sheets about 1-inch apart.
  • Bake for 13-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. When they smell like freshly baked cookies and the edges are slightly firm but still give a bit then consider them done. 
  • Remove the pans and allow the cookies to cool for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Share with your loved ones. 

Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

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10 thoughts on “The Kids are All Right, But I’m Not Sure About the Parents

  1. I did like this movie because of the reality of the scenario. I don’t think it’ll win any awards because it is a little indie movie that didn’t draw huge crowds to watch it. I like Annette Bening, I hope she wins an Oscar one of these days. Love is complicated when you ride the peaks and valleys, it is a marathon of endurance.

    1. Yeah. I think if I were to watch it again, I might like it better. I go into these movies with such high expectations because they are Academy Award nominees. Perhaps, if I adjust them a bit, I will enjoy the rest of the film more!

      I did love the part in the movie where they talk about marriage being a marathon. That, and other commentaries on love and relationships, resonated as truth to me.

  2. Yes, I thought The Kids Are Alright was the weakest of the 10 noms, and probably the most undeserved (besides Toy Story 3).

    The “movie you’ve seen before and didn’t like the first time” feeling is one I could name with an actual movie – Chasing Amy. It’s a Kevin Smith (Clerks/Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back/Zack and Miri) movie where Ben Affleck (who I just saw for 3 seconds of screen time in the 1991 Buffy the Vampire Slayer) falls in love/seduces a lesbian and then gets surprised when it doesn’t work out.

    The bizarre love/family triangles (although really, the relationships are more like open irregular figures than triangles) were interesting, but I didn’t find them particularly novel, I don’t think there’s any type of relationship/awkward situation that I haven’t already seen in a movie or a family-based tv show.

    I think the best scene to actually make use of that tension is when the father starts to seduce Annet Benning’s character, and Juliana Moore gets jealous – there’s a whole conflict of emotions at that exact moment and the acting talent and writing actually really comes together to pull the scene off. The other ensemble meals were good, but (imo) not as good as that scene, which unfortunately needs more context than the “College really wasn’t my thing” scene that everyone uses as the preview clip for the movie.

    Probably also worth saying that I thought Annet Benning was really good here, although I didn’t think she was as stunning as Halie (the protagonist in True Grit), that girl in Winter’s Bone or Natalie Portman.

    It’s interesting (and perhaps primed by Valentines Day) that you focused on the Love Relationships throughout the movie. I think that’s a good angle, but contrasts with mine and makes me think there may have been more to the film than I thought. I found myself thinking of the film in terms of vehicular symbolism. You have Juliana Moore’s gardening truck, you have the family/daughter’s Prius, you have Annet Benning’s Volvo, you have the father’s motorcycle. I feel like all four of these vehicles are powerfully symbolic – the gardening truck represents old-school hippies, the prius represents new-school hipsters, the volvo is practicality incarnate, the motocycle is fun/irresponsibility/freedom.

    I saw the movie as looking at a slice of California where liberalism has won the culture war. The lesbian marriage is beyond controversy and their role as parents is nearly normalized. There are food co-ops, Asian gardens, free love, and people who can follow their dreams/desires and still be successful.

    And yet, there are fractures in this society. There’s a difference between the Free Spirit motorcycle and the landscaping truck. There’s a difference between the practicality of the vovlo and the visage of the prius. I think what the movie does best is demonstrate how those pieces don’t quite fit together. What I liked best about the writing of the movie is the way that the father doesn’t really do anything wrong. He follows his heart and tries to be the best person he can be at any given moment. The fact that this is so disastrous goes a long way (for me) in uncovering the message of the movie.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think one of the most symbolic scenes was when Juliana Moore’s character drove the Volvo back home. I felt like it was her “coming into the fold” of practicality, joining Annet Benning and leaving behind the co-ops, the gardens, and the free spirits.

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