There's a freshness and authenticity to the characters in "The Kids Are All Right" that makes it seem like a rarity these days: a movie about a normal family, warts and all.
One parent is more uptight and controlling, the other a bit insecure and flighty. Their teenage children are well-adjusted, but their folks' "hovering" meets with a lot of eyeball rolling. And, oh, yes, the parents are Mom and Mom.
As Jules and Nic, Julianne Moore (insecure) and Annette Bening (uptight) are at the peak of their acting skills as a long-married couple whose world is turned upside down when the kids seek out their biological father.
Paul (Mark Ruffalo) is a laid-back restaurateur and organic gardener who is also taken aback to find out that two kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson), born as a result of his anonymous sperm donation years back, now want to meet him.
As the cool outsider, Paul offers them a chance at fun without lecture or judgment. Paul is very sweet, but his sexy "why not" lifestyle creates a near-meltdown for this non-traditional, traditional family. Ruffalo's wonderful portrayal makes us feel that, in this scenario, he might have the most to lose.
With intelligent dialogue and near-perfect performances, this is a film that rings true about the tangled, loving messiness that is marriage and family.
Director Phillip Noyce knows his way around spy thriller films. His credits include "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger" with Harrison Ford. This time around in "Salt," he features a daring Angelina Jolie as a new female James Bond character. Surprisingly, she easily handles the demands of being an action hero with absolute assurance and total competence.
Jolie plays experienced CIA officer Evelyn Salt. She is suddenly accused of being part of a Russian sleeper cell. Wild developments follow with hyperactive chase scenes and many nasty surprises. Athletic and gutsy, Jolie performs many of her own dangerous stunts. She brings a sharp focus and real gravitas to the role.
The political plot is outrageous as usual in these stories. But that's all part of the "Mission Impossible" style of moving making. It's hard to imagine another actress pulling off this job with the same fearless approach and quiet credibility that Jolie brings to the screen. She marches right into this male-dominated genre and boldly holds her own in every way. This movie might even garner an Oscar nod or two.
SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.
JOHN DEPKO is a Costa Mesa resident and a senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times