Director Lisa Cholodenko :: All about ’The Kids Are All Right’

by Jim Halterman

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday November 17, 2010

After landing in theaters earlier this year to mostly universal praise for it's realistic portrayal of the modern family, the film The Kids Are All Right arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this week. The story of the film finds us in the household of a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), who must deal with the complications that arise when their two teenage children (played by Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska) find the sperm donor who fathered them (Mark Ruffalo) and welcome him into their family.

Directed and co-written by Lisa Cholodenko (who penned the script with Stuart Blumberg), the film's success comes from a seamless blend of comedy and drama as well as Oscar-caliber performances from everyone in the cast and the wise choice to not heavily focus on the fact that a lesbian couple was front and center but, instead, portray the family as any other family with conflicts, problems and challenges that any familial unit would come up against.

As the film comes to home video, EDGE talked to Cholodenko about her feelings about the movie now that some time has passed since it first hit theaters, what's next for the out artist and her thoughts on the buzz about possible Oscar nominations to come in 2011.

Is the movie still fresh?

EDGE: Even though you’ve probably seen the movie so many times by now, when you go back to it, do you still find new stuff that you haven’t seen before?

Lisa Cholodenko: I’ve seen it a lot when we were cutting it, then I’ve seen it a handful of times on the screen. I hope this doesn’t come off as sounding odd but I really love the movie. It’s fun to watch it! I think the performances are amazing. I’m really proud of it and I think it holds up and holds together and if I want to go see it again, I think it’s a good time.

EDGE: The movie doesn’t come across like you’re making a big statement about same sex couples or homosexuals raising kids. Was that always your intention to not make an overt statement?

Lisa Cholodenko: I started writing it and in the spirit of the conception of the film these characters were a family and this situation just kind of came out and I was never inclined to do something that was politically correct or overly earnest or what not. I really just wanted to put this family out there and say ’Here’s this family and this is the configuration.’ I recognize that it’s political to do that and it’s certainly a family that’s probably never been seen on a widescreen and that’s fresh and fun but let’s get deeper now into some real comedy and drama and look at these people’s messes and behaviors and kind of situation. That was the stuff that kept it interesting to write and cast and direct.

Story continues on following page:

Watch the trailer to The Kids are All Right:





Watch this behind-the-scenes featurette:


The gay porn thing?

EDGE: The gay community, of course, really embraced the movie but did you hear the same kind of things from straight audiences?

Lisa Cholodenko: I did! When we first sold it and put it out, I wasn’t sure if it was going to cross over. I really didn’t know where it was going to land but it was so great in the first week that it was in the theaters to find out that straight people were really loving it and straight critics were really loving it and it did have this universal kind of appeal. What really was fresh and went down well with people was how little fuss we made about that fact that it was a gay family.

EDGE: Did you expect that the gay porn scene (when Moore and Bening’s characters have sex while watching male gay porn) would get people talking as much as it did?

Lisa Cholodenko: I thought people would just watch it and go, ’Oh, that’s funny!’ I didn’t know there would be so much inquiry and fascination and bafflement as there was so I had to learn how to talk about that because people wanted to kind of go off on a tangent. I was like ’If you really reduce the movie to gay porn then you’re missing the point.’ But, ya know, it played!

EDGE: Do you think about writing for actors? If you could get Julianne or Annette again, would you write something specifically for them or is that not how you work?

Lisa Cholodenko: I’m never really sure where ideas are born. The creative process is kind of bizarre. I can imagine at this point in my career having a daydream about Annette Bening and going ’That would be so great to do a film with her that goes off in this direction’ simply because Annette as a person inspires something within me. But typically my experience has been that I come up with an idea or a world or a kind of character set in a certain place that is interesting to me and then later try to cast the person who would be best for that part.

EDGE: There’s been Oscar buzz since the movie came out. How do you feel about that? Does it get stuck in your head?

Lisa Cholodenko: It’s out of my control, for sure, but I’m playing the game and I’m doing the press and I’m meeting people. I’d be thrilled if it got some Oscar noms. That would be a real highlight of my career. Knock wood!

EDGE: What is your next project?

Lisa Cholodenko: Oh God! I’m trying to just kind of gracefully bring The Kids Are All Right into closure. I have a couple more months on the trail so I haven’t locked up my next project yet but there’s a script that I’m developing with somebody and there’s something I’m developing at HBO but there’s been no press releases yet.

EDGE: Do you feel a responsibility that your subsequent projects need to have a gay component to them?

Lisa Cholodenko: No, I don’t think it’s a responsibility. When I write these films they come from a personal place and obviously that’s my frame of reference so that’s what comes out, that’s what I care about and what I know and what I’m attached to. I don’t see myself as a gay filmmaker. It’s just my orientation.

EDGE: In all honesty, how do you feel about doing press? It’s important to the movie but, you know, you’re really a director and a writer.

Lisa Cholodenko: I’ll tell you something. I like it in that it’s really fun to talk about your work. As an artist, it’s fun to kind of get in there and pull it apart and speak about it and inform it so it’s creative in one way and then, in all candor, it’s kind of exhausting! It’s like endurance in a marathon. You just have to keep charging forward. It’s a mixed bag, as they say, but I’m happy to do it and happy that people want to talk to me, for God’s sake!

The Kids Are All Right is available on DVD and Blu-Ray now.


Watch the clip from the Charlie Rose Show with Lisa Cholodenko and Julianne Moore:




Watch these red carpet interviews at The Kids are All Right’s New York premiere:


Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for www.FutonCritic.com, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, www.jimhalterman.com. He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.

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