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« Review: "Hereditary" | Main | Top 5 Suits Cate Blanchett Wore to Promote Ocean's 8 »
Thursday
Jun072018

Blueprints: "The Kids Are All Right"

To celebrate Pride Month, every week of June Jorge will be highlighting the script of a movie that focuses on a different letter of the LGBT acronym. For “L”, he looks back at one of the most touching family dramas of the past decade.

For years, one of the biggest goals of the LGBT community (although certainly not the only or the most important one) has been to be seen as peers by the rest of the world. As people that, albeit in a different manner, go through the same experiences and have the same types of feelings: growing pains, heartbreak, the ache to share our lives with someone special…

On film, this sentiment of “We’re just like you” has been the most prevalent in family-focused narrative. The Kids Are All Right magnificently balances the act of showing a lesbian couple as readily familiar as any heterosexual marriage, while at the same time depicting struggles unique to them. Let’s take a look at a breaking point in the story; a moment where this harmony between a pleasant exterior and the turbulence of the couple is broken, and how it looks in the page. Via a single strand of bright red hair...

The Kids Are All Right
Written by: Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
[You can read the whole script here. I will be talking about this scene.]

Nic and Jules are having dinner at Paul’s house, the biological father of their two children. Nic has been incredibly reluctant to bringing this man into their lives, thinking it will rupture the perfect balance in the family, and bring unnecessary chaos and confusion. Jules has convinced her to give him a chance, even though she has also been sleeping with Paul on the side. 

During dinner, Nic finds that she and Paul have musical tastes in common. The environment starts to relax. Tensions are low. Things are working out just okay. The easy-going, simple and flowing nature of the prose in the script reflect that. Nic sings a verse of Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want”, something that has never happened before, as her family watch “open-mouthed.”

In short, concise sentences, we know that Nic has softened for Paul, and how surprised her family is about it. And how surprised she is, as well. “She’s connected to a part of herself she rarely lets herself visit.” Nic is  suddenly vulnerable, something completely different from what we’ve seen up to that point.

And then she says it: “I like this guy.” In a four-word sentence, her entire worldview has changed. And she is “stunned” about it. There’s no more description. None is necessary. It’s a hard hitting moment where very little happens, but everything changes. Unfortunately it doesn’t last long.

***

*** 

Nic goes into Paul’s bathroom, and notices a hairbrush. In another small instant where not much happens, her world-view changes again as “she reaches into the bristles, and pulls out a few strands of long red hair.” Underlined. In a separate paragraph, for dramatic effect.

She goes to the bedroom, and “her looks tell us she’s found hair there as well.” The script does not use detailed description, or long sentences, or even much action. It goes to the point, which falls immediately and falls hard. We feel the weight of the world as Nic realizes her wife has been sleeping with the father of their children.

As she heads back to the table, everything is different once again; this time for the worst. Simple descriptions clearly and effectively reflect her mood. “She looks drained.” “The sound drops off.” “Totally disconnected.” “Shell-shocked.” One word adjectives; small moments that mean everything.

In perhaps the biggest display of poetic and narrative description of Nic’s mood, “She wants to scream but it feels like she’s trapped in cement.” This is a completely different Nic from the untapped self she had become just seconds ago in that very same table.

*** 

***

The script for The Kids Are All Right gets right to the point. Much like the lives of the family it is depicting, it tries to not be complicated, but underneath the simplicity, there is a lot of weight in small actions. Hearts are changed through the singing of a song, and lives are destroyed over a strand of hair. 

The film does not make the argument that this LGBT couple has the same problems as a straight one. In fact, their particular problems could not be more different. But it does show that the power struggles, emotional complexity, and dramatic misunderstandings that make a compelling story are the same. Shit goes down in every family. In this one, one of the two wives just happens to sleep with the biological father of the kids. It happens.

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Reader Comments (6)

Great movie, AMAZING scene. Annette Bening is just wonderful in it (plus, bonus points for Joni Mitchell).

June 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStefano

How did The Bening not win for this?! Oh I rem.. ..they prefer the OTT performance fr Black Swan...sigh..

Its sad tt this is Bening's last nom todate.

June 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

I really loved this film, and enjoy re-watching it. All performances were excellent and deserve praise, but this moment where Benning as Nic discovers her wife's infidelity is heart rending.
I do wish she had won an Oscar for this, but momentum and publicity count for more at awards time. (sigh)

June 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Just wanted to add that Joni Mitchell seems to be a favourite for this type of scene. Very similar to Emma Thompson's great scene in Love Actually.
Maybe someday Joni Mitchell could get a Nobel Prize just like Bob Dylan.

June 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

The cold thing about Bening being denied consecutively this past two years is that Moore clenched a Best Actress win with an overdue narrative.

June 8, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I just watched her in The Seagull--she completely owned that movie. That's three straight years she's offered us utterly compelling, haunting work. Oscar, wake the fuck up.

June 8, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

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