Make it Snappy: 'The Kids Are All Right'

At long last her good manners have snapped, but her dignity has never been more intact. Striding to the front door from the supper table in a way that makes you breathe "Uh-oh!" -- I remember my grandmother was able to do this too -- Nic (Annette Bening) comes up behind her 15-year-old son Laser (Josh Hutcheson) to have a word with his father. Actually Paul (Mark Ruffalo) is the sperm donor of Laser and his older sister Joni (Mia Wasikowska), and has come belatedly into their lives during that transitional summer between Joni's high school graduation and departure to college. Just as Joni needs to pull away a bit from her family, Laser has convinced her to seek out their common dad, who runs a local eatery supplied by his own garden and seems to have his pick of the women staffing both.

" Well, this is not your family," concludes Nic, just before slamming that door in Paul's face. "This is my family. If you want a family, go make your own."

Filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko has said of Nic -- older partner of Jules (Julianne Moore), family breadwinner, OB-GYN physician, guardian of shaping the children's social graces, who has endured much from Paul as has everyone in her household -- that "she's a bit of a mama bear." This is not clear earlier in the film or even for quite some way into the story, not before the quite remarkable dinner scene in which Nic first wills herself to see what about this man her partner and kids find so appealing, reveals her own tender side -- they both love the vintage album "Blue" by Joni Mitchell, Nic's daughter's namesake -- and then discerns from Paul's bathroom the betrayal a lover would grasp in a flash.

Cholodenko has been nursing this film project since 2005, when Julianne Moore, for whom she wrote the part of Jules, was already on board. Cholodenko was delayed in making the film and meanwhile she and her partner had a sperm-donor child of their own, an experience she attests sharpened the final script as well as her direction of its singular performances. It may also sharpen your experience of this film to realize that since the film's wide release on July 23rd, a California court has struck down that state's ban on gay marriage -- put in place by voter referendum in 2008 as Proposition 8.

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