I’m sort of loving how Lisa Cholodenko (on right), director of the lesbi-family dramedy The Kids Are All Right, isn’t taking any crap about whether the film is “gay enough.”
It stars two straight actors playing lesbians, and one of them has an affair with a straight guy. I’ve already talked to a few girlfriends who think that’s “the dumbest thing ever” (verbatim quote), and it might be. And it might be true that Cholodenko is purposefully playing up the “it’s just a movie about families” shtick rather than “it’s a lezzzzzy flick yo” angle, like she did in a red carpet interview with Ben & Dave’s Six Pack. But: So what?
Cholodenko didn’t have to make a movie for all lesbian family audiences, or even all lesbians. She made a movie that features a pretty authentic family that happens to have two mommies. Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir writes:
By making a movie in which a pair of married lesbians are played by well-known hetero actresses Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, and in which one partner (Jules, played by Moore) has an affair with a straight man, Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg capitulate — in some people’s view — to a whole set of “Celluloid Closet”-type homophobic stereotypes, and possibly lend aid and comfort to the right-wing view of homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice.” Furthermore, Cholodenko doesn’t seem terribly concerned about it. Before our Sundance interview, I read her a few examples from the first wave of critical comments and she laughed them off: “Maybe those people need to take their pink megaphone somewhere else.”
Ultimately, this might not even rise to the level of a tempest in a teapot: Lesbian and gay viewers, along with everybody else who actually sees “The Kids Are All Right,” are likely to find it a sympathetic, honest and frequently hilarious film about the challenges of marriage, parenting and contemporary family life, with one highly topical twist. But if some queer-radical types object to the film on political or ideological grounds, there’s a sense in which they’re right to do so. This movie definitely isn’t aimed at them.
This doesn’t mean capital-L Lesbian films can’t go mainstream — it’s just that this might be the closest you’re going to get. In the meantime, there’s Outfest.