The movie looks at a seemingly happy tribe made up of longtime lesbian couple Nic, a high-powered doctor (Annette Bening), and landscape designer Jules (Julianne Moore), and their teenaged children Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). Their suburban domesticity is temporarily shattered, however, after the kids decide to look up Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a successful restaurateur and perennial bachelor who is their biological father (via sperm donation) and who quickly inserts himself into all aspects of the family's life.
The film -- which took Cholodenko, its director and co-writer (with Stuart Blumberg) over five years to complete -- was a huge hit at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was purchased for $5 million by Focus Features. "The response is beyond anything I could have imagined," she says. "The impetus for the script was my own domestic situation -- when I started writing, my girlfriend and I were thinking about kids and looking at sperm donors, and by time we were finished, I had a child. But what I tried to really make a film about is the true value of family. Sometimes it's messy and it gets broken, but if you have the commitment, you can glue it back together."
The role of Jules wasn't originally written specifically for Moore, although she and Cholodenko had discussed such a possibility. "I met Lisa a number of years ago at a Women In Film luncheon and went right up to her and asked why I had never seen the script for her earlier film, High Art," Moore recalls. "Sometime later, we had a formal meeting, and she said she'd write me a script."
Once she saw the script for The Kids Are All Right, Moore became firmly committed to the film. "I was taken by what it had to say about this couple's relationship," she says. "These are two people who chose to be together. I especially love the scene in the film when they talk about how they first met -- I think every couple, gay or straight, has that kind of story. But they're also both still individuals. Whoever says two should become one is just talking baloney."
While Moore and Bening exhibit extraordinary chemistry onscreen, Moore says the two stars didn't have time to rehearse or discuss much about the film before they began the quick 23-day shoot. "I think because Annette and I are both married and we both have kids -- she has four and I have two -- this was just pretty darn familiar territory for both of us," says Moore.
While some audiences may have trouble with how quickly the pair hook up, Ruffalo thinks the couple's dalliance makes sense. "Sexually, I think more people are 'on the fence' than not and people have all sort of desires," he says, adding that the pair never display a deep emotional commitment to each other.
Ruffalo has a second love interest in the film, his beautiful co-worker Tanya, played by screen and stage actress YaYa DaCosta (soon to appear in the Sonnet Repertory's production of Twelfth Night.) "I loved working with Mark. He was extremely generous; he really listened to me take after take. It felt like we were doing theater," she says. "And to be in the same film with Annette and Julianne, even though we didn't share any scenes, was just divine."
Like her co-stars and collaborators, DaCosta expects the film will resonate with many kinds of people. "I am really excited to be part of this movie and I truly believe that all sorts of people will be receptive to it," she says. "I am already hearing that people are finally ready to see this kind of family on screen."