… politically correct … but unkind …
This is a pleasant movie to watch but sentimental, and very unfair to men. It’s a well acted comedy with canny observation of recognizable “types” engaged amusingly in an odd ball “modern family” situation — in a southern California environment of sunny decks and patios, lush foliage and organic food. There are problems, sure, but then how bad can anything be with great kitchens with granite counter tops and warm wood shelving and everybody cooking really well? It’s in the genre of It’s Complicated.
Two lesbians, Nic (Benning), an M.D. (OB-GYN) who supports the family and Jules (Moore), somewhat feckless in the job area but now engaged in a start-up landscaping business, have been together in what for them is in all ways a true marriage — wherever California may be on the legal status of gay marriage at the moment — for many years. Rounding out the family are their two teen-agers whom they each had via the same anonymous sperm donor. Laser (Hutcherson) is Jules’ biological 15-year old son and Joni (Wasikowska) is Nic’s biological daughter, 18 and about to start college. The kids are doing fine having two moms.
Laser, though, yearning to know something about his biological father, urges Joni to find out about him because she’s old enough to make the inquiry. Thus Paul (Ruffalo), the donor from all those years back, enters their lives, and he’s charming, a little raffish but still, a guy who makes a good living — he runs a successful restaurant. He takes to spending time with the kids in a loving and responsible way — though Nic, antagonistic from the start, argues about “responsible.” The kids, though cautious, fall for him, and so does Jules who has “issues” with the domineering Nic, and anyhow Jules has a common interest with Paul in growing things and organics.
So, while Jules is working on landscaping Paul’s place, she and Paul have what looks on all counts like a passionate, joyous affair. If you came into the movie at this point, you’d never guess Jules was gay, believe me.
But then everybody gets angry at them. Nic, frantic over Jules’ betrayal, fearful of the loss of her love, turns sarcastic and ugly, and the kids, too, are furious, seeing it as a personal and family betrayal. Jules ends up sleeping on the couch (turnaround on an old joke). But Paul —
Paul is thrust from the family circle. Out in the cold. Persona non grata. Expelled from the clan. Jules, back in the fold, seems (implausibly) not to care a jot. And Paul has to hear his biological daughter say to him, searching for the right words though she’s a very smart girl, “I wish you’d been … better.” Whamo. While everybody rushes to get back to loving Jules, who’s off the sofa and back in the cozy marital bed fast.
Yet Jules and Paul were both drawn to the affair and shared responsibility for it — in fact Jules initiated the first kiss, Paul up to that point having been, as they say, a “gentleman.” And as Paul’s dream takes hold of him, of loving Jules and gaining a family in the bargain — not reaching 50 as a drifter “like some of those guys” — he gives up his gorgeous, younger, Black sometime girlfriend (who manages to dump on him, too). Paul loses the whole caboodle, and Nic — I guess this is called “growth” — lets Jules take over the wheel of the family car.
Talk about a double standard.
I feel really sorry for Paul.