This irresistible summer confection from Hanson (yes, the MMMBop kids are grown up and married with kids of their own) is inspired by a scene from “The Blues Brothers.”
Just for fun, take another look at Hanson, circa 1997. I dare you not to MmmBop right along with them.
Thanks to my darling daughter Rachel for inspiring this one!
Life is messy, and one of the ways we try to make sense of it is through stories. With their selection of detail and events and resolution — whether a happy or a sad one — they give us a sense of structure and logic and catharsis. They help us sort through life’s ambiguities and complications, even if only for a couple of hours.
At least, that’s what stories do most of the time. Once in a while, they are content just to reflect back to us the very messiness and ambiguity we are experiencing. And when they do it well, they give us a sense of recognition that is in its own way cathartic. This film manages to do that and to be subtly subversive, lulling us across some of our own internal boundaries with its matter-of-fact portrayal of family life.
Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a long-time couple who have each given birth to a child, biological half-siblings because both women used sperm from the same anonymous donor, selected as optimal on the basis of his profile. Now the children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska of “Alice in Wonderland”) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson of “Journey to the Center of the Earth”) are teenagers and curious about their biological father. So, without telling their moms, they contact him.
He is Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an organic farmer and restaurateur whose free-spirited approach to life is very appealing to two teenagers emerging from a home that is rather hot-housed by comparison. Nic and Jules have created a deeply nurturing, “Let’s talk about our feelings” environment that feels claustrophobic and intrusive to their children, especially Laser as the household’s only male. In a brief but beautifully filmed scene that opens the film, Laser looks on with a mixture of curiosity and longing as a friend casually roughhouses with his dad, captivated by this particularly male kind of communication. It may be in part this emotion that keeps Laser connected to a friend his moms correctly believe to be a bad influence.
Paul is an enticing figure for the teenagers, comfortable with his maleness and easy-going. And Paul himself is enticed by Joni and Laser, who surprise him with a sense of connection and stability he did not realize he was missing. Just as they are separating from overshare central in the house they grew up in as a normal part of adolescent search for identity, he is drawn to the road he did not quite realize he chose not to take. And this plays out in ways that threaten everything the family has built.
The title focuses on the kids, but the movie is really about the adults. The small miracle of this film is its portrayal of a long-term marriage, its perspective unadorned but sympathetic, satiric but tender. The dynamic of affection, distraction, familiarity, and frustration is deftly portrayed. The expectation of the movie is that audiences will take for granted that a same-sex relationship is just like every other relationship we have experienced and seen portrayed, and if there is any surprise at all it is how quickly we do.
And then, just as we get comfortable with the familiar discomforts of the relationship, it all gets turned upside down and we and the characters are asked to jettison yet another level of expectations and boundaries.
Bening and Moore are magnificent. It is a pure pleasure to see women with real faces on screen. They hold nothing back in allowing themselves to be seen fully in every sense of the term, opening themselves up with breathtaking generosity of spirit. The kids are all right in this film; the grown-ups are even better.
Lisa Cholodenko co-wrote and directed one of the best-reviewed films of the year, “The Kids Are All Right,” about the teenage children of a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) who seek out their biological father, leading to upheavals and realignments. I spoke to her about developing the film from her own experience.
It was a joy to see middle-aged actresses with beautiful but real faces. Bening and Moore let us see their real faces in this film.
I adore them. They are tremendous people on and off screen. One thing that was great about the experience was that everyone had the same agenda, to bring this script to life and make sure we got it right. We spent five years developing and revising the screenplay. It was five years in the making. By the time we got it together, with very little money, they were ready to bring it forward and it was more than I ever expected, what they did with these roles.
How did the screenplay evolve?
It originally evolved from a very personal place. My girlfriend and I were deciding to have a baby with an anonymous sperm donor and it was complicated. It took us a long time to make the decision and find the right donor. I had been fully absorbed in that process and when I sat down to write a script I realized that there wasn’t much on my mind but that. I started from a place of imagining this girl turning 18, her prerogative to open that Pandora’s box and make contact with her sperm donor, what that would be like.
I have a four-year-old now. I imagined he would want to meet this person and that the donor we selected would be open to that. That was something I felt strongly I would want for him. I made a right turn there with the narrative and made the moms are more anxious about it. I sort of threw a dart at the wall and that’s where the story began.
Stuart Blumberg (the co-author), I had known before and we re-connected. It turned out he had been a sperm donor in college.
Josh’s character Laser has the keenest, most perceptive take than anyone in the family.
What are the biggest challenges for people in long-term relationships?
It’s keeping an equilibrium. It’s easy to get lost, as Jules says at the end. Boundaries get blurry and identities can get lost easily. It’s easy to take your partner for granted. Keeping boundaries and equilibrium so you can move through the whole menu of life experiences and recover and grow.
In this film and in “Laurel Canyon” you allow middle-aged people to be sexual, which you don’t see very often in movies.
We don’t see it in a way that resonates as true or interesting. What interested me about the characters in these two films is that understanding their sexual gravitas helped to understand them as people.
Who are some of your influences as a film-maker?
I was very influenced by the films of the 70’s. It was a golden era for independent-minded films being made at studios — Hal Ashby, Mike Nichols, Robert Altman, movies with a keen sense of character and psychology and were also funny, drama-comedies, taking bigger risks with character than we see now, more naturalism than we see now. Everything today is more digital and finely crafted and controlled. I really wanted this family to feel natural and lived-in and real.
“The Other Guys,” starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, opens in theaters August 6th, and the film will make its World Premiere in New York City on August 2nd. But, in keeping with its “other” theme, the movie will have another premiere — “The Other Premiere” — and moviegoers can help decide where it will be. Beginning today, moviegoers can go on Facebook to vote in a poll to decide which Other City will host The Other Premiere. Ferrell and Wahlberg will attend the red carpet event in the winning city on August 5th.
The 20 candidate cities are Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa/St. Petersburg, and Washington, DC. On August 2, Ferrell and Wahlberg will announce the winning city.
Commenting on the announcement, Adam McKay, director of “The Other Guys,” said, “We’ve all had those moments when we’ve had to watch some other guy be the cool guy. But your city can be the cool city. Get on Facebook and vote, and we’ll bring The Other Premiere to you.”
In The Other Guys, NYPD Detectives Christopher Danson and P.K. Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) are the baddest and most beloved cops in New York City. They don’t get tattoos – other men get tattoos of them. Two desks over and one back, sit Detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg). You’ve seen them in the background of photos of Danson and Highsmith, out of focus and eyes closed. They’re not heroes – they’re “the Other Guys.”
But every cop has his or her day and soon Gamble and Hoitz stumble into a seemingly innocuous case no other detective wants to touch that could turn into New York City’s biggest crime. It’s the opportunity of their lives, but do these guys have the right stuff?
The Other Guys stars Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, with Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. Directed by Adam McKay and written by Adam McKay & Chris Henchy, the producers are Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jimmy Miller, and Patrick Crowley.