Greetings again from the darkness. Laurel Canyon and High Art are two of director Lisa Cholodenko’s previous best films. She seems to have a knack for exploring interpersonal relationships and observing human emotions. Here she co-wrote a very good and insightful script with Stuart Blumberg.
The story centers around a married lesbian couple played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. They play the moms’ to Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Josh Hutcherson (Bridge to Terabitha). Turns out, each of the ladies gave birth to these kids with help of the same sperm donor. The kids decide they want to meet the donor dad and it turns out he is uber-cool Mark Ruffalo: owner of an organic garden and restaurant, rider of awesome motorcycle, wearer of stylistic leather jacket, and master of hippie-type language that connects with teenagers. In other words, he is a parents’ worst nightmare.
The story examines real life issues such as marriage, family life, mid-life crisis and self-fulfillment. It wraps those things brilliantly around an unconventional family, each with recognizable personality types.
The weakness in the film is two-fold. An important storyline develops between Ruffalo and one of the moms that just seemed out of place to me. The point was made, but could have been made in a much more realistic way. Worse though is the performances of two wonderful actresses – Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. With a couple of exceptions, I thought they were both over-the-top in just about every scene. They were almost caricatures of their character types. My gut feeling is that one or both will receive Oscar nods because of the “risky” roles, but the histrionics should not be rewarded.
Interesting tidbit: daughters of Steven Spielberg, David Mamet and Michael Eisner all have roles in the film. Wow … that’s some parental firepower in Hollywood! This one is worth seeing for the script and for Ruffalo’s best performance, but it’s really not as funny as it tries to be. Probably would have worked better as a straight drama.