I like how this hilarious and heartfelt movie approaches family. Director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) knows how easy the ties that bind can become undone. And the hell of trying to tie new knots. Gay marriage is the subject here, but not the issue. Tightly wound doctor Nic (Annette Bening) and loose-limbed landscaper Jules (Julianne Moore) have an ease with each other at home in Los Angeles. Their two kids – Joni (Mia Wasikowska, a marvel in Alice in Wonderland), 18, and Laser (Josh Hutcherson of Cirque du Freak), 15 — are at ease with them. But one day, the kids decide they want to meet the sperm donor who fathered them. He's Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a restaurateur with charm to spare. It's a sitcom premise, but Cholodenko keeps it raw and touchingly humane. There's a subtext to every gesture, as when Nic sneaks an extra glass of wine and Jules indulges in a taste for men. The actors are to die for. Bening and Moore nail every nuance of a relationship going adrift. And Ruffalo is dynamite as a man keeping himself at a distance. Kids makes its own special magic. It's irresistible.
From The Archives Issue 435: November 22, 1984