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Outfest 2010 and “The Kids Are All Right”

Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right, opening tomorrow, is not screening at this year's Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival opening tonight with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Howl and running through July 18, but the juxtaposition of Amy Kaufman's piece on Outfest in the Los Angeles Times and Andrew O'Hehir's review of Kids in Salon is too obvious to let slide.

"Can openly gay actors convincingly play straight characters?" asks Kaufman, referring to Ramin Setoodeh's infamous piece for Newsweek back in April, "Straight Jacket." Two weeks following its publication, by the way, the magazine's culture editor, Marc Peyser, made a stab at clearing "some smoke away from this fire," i.e., distancing Newsweek from Setoodeh's ridiculous and ridiculously offensive argument that gay actors cannot, in fact, play straight. So Peyser interviewed Dustin Lance Black, "the Oscar-winning and openly gay screenwriter of Milk, and Jarrett Barrios, the president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), to get their assessment of the larger issues surrounding sexuality in Hollywood."

On July 17, as Kaufman reports, the Outfest panel "Coming Out in Hollywood" will extend that conversation. "The panel is one of more than a dozen the festival will host, in addition to the 147 films — 60 features and 87 shorts — that it will screen." The Outfest site is... difficult, so for a more legible overview of the lineup, see Bryce J Renninger at indieWIRE. Meantime, for the LA Weekly, Ernest Hardy and Chuck Wilson highlight their top picks. At indieWIRE, Kim Adelman spotlights "10 Outstanding Shorts at Outfest '10."

To Salon and Kids. "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.'" Andrew O'Hehir concedes that they may have a point, but: "This movie definitely isn't aimed at them.... This is one of the most compelling and rewarding portraits of a middle-class American marriage in cinema history, as well as one of the funniest. The fact that the people in this particular marriage are both women is important to the story, of course. But perhaps, Cholodenko suggests, it isn't all that important to the universe."

"Whereas Cholodenko's two previous features, High Art (1998) and Laurel Canyon (2003), each focused on an innocent young woman swept up in the glamorously baffling sex-and-drugs scene swirling around a charismatic older female artist," writes the Voice's J Hoberman, "the situation here is reversed; unexpectedly drawn in to and fascinated by the ultra-domestic household created by a pair of charismatic femmes, the swinger is the straight man (literally)." That would be "the newly identified, merrily free-spirited sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), responsible for both the couple's teenage children, Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson)."

"[T]his may be the unlikeliest triumph for a potentially maudlin family drama since You Can Count on Me," argues Ben Kenigsberg in Time Out Chicago. More from David Edelstein (New York), Anthony Lane (New Yorker), Louis Peitzman (San Francisco Bay Guardian), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune, video), Keith Phipps (AV Club), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Henry Stewart (L), Ella Taylor (NPR), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York), Armond White (New York Press), Alison Willmore (IFC), Lauren Wissot (Slant) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline).

Interviews with Cholodenko: Jeffrey M Anderson (GreenCine Daily), Andrea Gronvall (Movie City News), Logan Hill (New York), Anthony Kaufman (indieWIRE), Peter Knegt (video), Louis Peitzman (Pixel Vision), David Poland (video), Nathan Rabin (AV Club), Nathaniel Rogers (Towleroad), Damon Smith (Filmmaker) and Ella Taylor (Voice). She's a guest on Fresh Air, too.

Aaron Hillis interviews Ruffalo for IFC and, for the New York Times, Ari Karpel spends an afternoon with him. Neda Ulaby talks with him, too, for NPR. Profiles of Moore: Michael Ordoña (LAT) and Gina Piccalo (Daily Beast).

Updates, 7/9: "It is outrageously funny without ever exaggerating for comic effect, and heartbreaking with only minimal melodramatic embellishment," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "But its originality — the thrilling, vertiginous sense of never having seen anything quite like it before — also arises from the particular circumstances of the family at its heart."

"Plenty of movies strive for topicality, but occasionally something like The Kids Are All Right slaps you in the face with the world you're actually living in," writes the Chicago Reader's JR Jones.

For Slate's Dana Stevens, this "is the movie we've been waiting for all year: a comedy that doesn't take cheap shots, a drama that doesn't manipulate, a movie of ideas that doesn't preach."

More from Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Cynthia Fuchs (PopMatters) and Betsy Sharkey (LAT). Bryan Alexander talks with Moore for Time; Nathaniel R has a fun conversation with her, too.

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