Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in a scene from Lisa Choldenko’s The Kids Are All Right. Photo credit: Suzanne Tenner.
I am proud to say that I was a hard sell for The Kids Are All Right, the family comedy-drama starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore and opening in limited release on July 9th. A mainstream film featuring a lesbian-headed family?! And the leads are among two of the finest actors working right now? With seven Oscar nominations between ’em? Oh you betcha I’m there. But I’m there with both expectations and hackles raised. The attitude I bring to the movie theater approximates what you might bring to the living room in which your daughter’s prom date sits. Hopefully nervously.
Picture your kid, a sweet tender thing you’ve dedicated the last decade and a half to protecting and promoting, who deserves the best, or at least a fair shake, goddamn it. And then there’s the date, a Usual Suspect with a history of stringing folks along and then breaking their hearts, or worse. The sweet tender thing in this construction, though, is me and my people: lesbians, even more specifically, lesbian-headed families, and the kids in them. The prom date I’m looking askance at? Commercial Hollywood film.
I have a right to be squinty-eyed. For most of my movie-going life, commercial Hollywood film has left me and mine either ignored along the walls surrounding the dance floor, quietly convincing ourselves of our worth despite the lack of attention, or attended to for just a moment, only to be betrayed in the next, accidentally or even maliciously.
I will never forget sitting, or rather eventually slinking down lower and lower in my seat, in a suburban Minneapolis movie theater watching Basic Instinct in the early 1990s. A mainstream Hollywood movie that had a lesbian in it! Plus a bisexual woman! I had to go, and took with me my gal sweetie, a friend, and her gal sweetie. The overwhelmingly heterosexual crowd watched placidly as blood splattered the screen in the opening scene, and then–I’m not making this up–later groaned and called out in disgust when Sharon Stone kisses her female lover. For Michael Douglass’ benefit. Which lover, to no one’s surprise, turns out to be a homicidal, suicidal, man-hating basket case.