Sundance 2010 has been waiting for a breakout hit, and one that didn’t have a distributor. It finally happened at 8:30 on Monday night at the Library Center theater, which was packed for a “Special Surprise” screening of Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids Are All Right.”
As festival director John Cooper said before the film started, “If anything happens to the people in this room, there goes the independent film world.”
Indeed, everyone was there, and now everyone is fighting over who will release Cholodenko’s brilliant “alternative” family comedy starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, and Mark Ruffalo. Like Nicole Holofcener’s “Please Give,” Cholodenko’s film is her best yet, a fully formed, three act knockout that crosses all its t’s, dots all its i’s, and gives a multi-dimensional rendering to its characters. Fox Searchlight, Focus, Weinstein Company, SPC, you name it, they all want it.
“The Kids Are All Right” is about a long-term lesbian couple (Moore and Bening), their kids (top notch newcomers Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson), and the anonymous sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) who stirs up a lot of trouble in their lives. These five actors are so good together in this film I guarantee you they will win Best Ensemble awards in 2011.
Why the film works is easy: the charactes are totally accesible and sympathetic. Even as they make mistakes, they’re very human. And the story is very contemporary: this is what the modern family is like in 2010. What seems unconventional is actually old fashioned in every respect. And it’s also a very sexy movie, with Moore and Ruffalo’s romps keeping “The Kids” in R rated territory.
Now the question is, will “The Kids Are All Right” force the mostly tepid buyers here into action? The film cost about $4 million to produce. In the old days ‘ like 2006, 2007 ‘ a bidding war would ensue and record sales might be recorded. But it’s a different world now. We’ll see what happens.