Before I go into any real detail about this movie I must say that at times it took me out of my comfort zone, particularly at the beginning, yet somehow kept me laughing and engaged throughout.  The film’s premise – a married lesbian couple dealing with their children building a relationship with their sperm donor father – is not one that I have encountered before.  There is a certain amount of sexuality in the film but surprisingly not from the parents themselves, but from a copious amount of gay (as in male) porn being watched by the various characters.  These very moments were very cringe worthy yet quite funny. Underlying the sometimes subtle humor lies a touching drama exploring the many facets of child-rearing and relationships amongst both homosexual and straight people.  As much as director Lisa Cholodenko tries to paint an accurate picture of this ‘modern family’, what the viewer will take away will ultimately depend on their feeling towards the characters; and as much as we would want to feel good about the family by the end of the journey, there are some things that may hold some viewers back.

A lesbian married couple, Jules (played by Juliane Moore) and Nic (Annete Bennning) are seemingly successful at raising their two teenage children (Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska) , until one day their world gets turned upside down: The children want to meet their biological father. This is comically misinterpreted by Nic as signs of her son’s budding homoerotic desires for his sociopath best friend.    Played by Mark Rufallo, the laid back, down to earth father meets his biological  children and becomes the family’s third wheel, so to speak.

The parents have a hard time to assimilate to this new change and begin to feel that they are loosing influence with their children. After a not-quite-so-shocking plot twist, the family is torn apart and the Nic and Jules try to piece their family together before their daughter heads off to college.  Unfortunately things don’t go to well for their biological dad who gets left in the dust, his new-found importance shot to pieces.

I certainly emphasized with the lesbian couple and their marital troubles and their children’s growing pains; yet I couldn’t help but feel for Mark Ruffalo’s character and his predicament by the end.  Partially because of Rufallos’ excellent performance and partially because of my own experience of re-kindling a relationship with an estranged father. Jules’ seemingly irrational xenophobia half way through the movie also lends a hand to having somewhat less sympathy for, marital and child rearing  issues aside, is a well-off ‘normal’ family.  Which brings me back to an earlier point: family is a very touchy subject, even more so when it involves such a new – at least in film – concept of homosexual parents raising children. The film is certainly a step in the right direction.

Being a  drama/comedy, the humor is done well enough for most people to find entertaining and sometimes chuckle. The drama is at times  profound although not entirely poignant, at least not in the way of the usual family dramas – for better or for worse. This is definitely meant to be a feel good flick and to that end the film makers certainly have mostly gotten it down.  That said, I can’t help but feeling that film takes a conservative stance on it’s subject matter in order to justify the comedy and portray a positive image of how normal homosexual families are.  While the viewer is ultimately left to decide if the kids (and parents) are really all right: this reviewer feels that the movie certainly is.

8/10

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