The first time I watched The Kids Are All Right, I didn't really like it. I thought about it in the same way that some (incredibly nasty small minded) people think about American Beauty- that not very much happens and it was really slow and annoying, and not even that dramatic. I love Mark Ruffalo and Annette Bening, and I'm not adverse to Julianne Moore, so I was really disappointed that I didn't like it more. In the words of Mia Wasikowska "I thought you'd be... better."
I don't really know why I watched it again, other than, because it was on Sky Movies, and I have quite the crush on Ruffalo, but this time I was much more pleased with it (it's possible that when I watched it before, it was poor quality and on a computer screen, but I'm sure that had nothing to do with it!) I just felt like I 'got' it a lot more, and understood really, fundamentally, what the writer/director Lisa Cholodenko was trying to say. Although, I have to say, I still don't understand why Annette Bening got to be nominated for Best Leading Actress for it, since, seriously, I think Moore was in it more than her. I'm not going to bitch about it though because, 1) I love her, and 2) she sings Joni Mitchell? With the Ruffalo? Amazing!
Anyway, the fundamental thing I think I missed about The Kids Are All Right the first time around is the role Ruffalo plays in all of this. As the sperm donor dad of the kids of two lesbians, when I first watched this, I kind of thought it was unfair that they expected anything from him, and basically just thought of him as a guy who was trying to do his best. I was SO wrong. The thing about Ruffalo's character is, that he's continually just playing at being part of this family- the decisions he makes have no real impact on his life, and so he is able to make them without regret or even thinking at all about how they might affect other people. He's intrinsically selfish, but he thinks that he's trying out a role, seeing if he could be any good at being an effective father. This is why his presence pisses off Annette Bening so much (because she sees him as trying to usurp her role in the family, which he quite literally is) and, to be honest, upon a second viewing, he pissed me off too. There's this look that he continually gets on his face, like the situations he finds himself in are amusing, rather than the serious things that they obviously mean to the family. He attempts to work his way into the family, but the truth is, he doesn't even know how to be part of one.
I don't know if all of this means I should feel sorry for Ruffalo (I actually can't be bothered to look up his character name at all. But it might be Paul. And it might not be...) but I really don't because I think that, after this whole experience is over, he will go back to how his life was before, and it won't really have affected him that much, whereas his actions almost ripped that lovely little family apart. Hence the not really feeling sorry for him. What I do feel right now though, is grateful for my Ruffalo-love because, without it, I wouldn't have gotten a whole new perspective on this film and its beautiful subtleties. This isn't the first time thinking with my pants has given me unexpected results (see also: naked Patrick Wilson in Little Children) and hopefully it won't be the last!