Spoiler alert: don’t read this review if you don’t want to find out what happens in this movie.
Yes, the kids are all right, though their family is unconventional: Joni and Laser have two moms, Nic and Jules, and this lesbian couple each had one of the children, courtesy of an anonymous sperm donor, Paul, when Paul was 19. Except Paul doesn’t remain anonymous–the now-teenage kids seek him out, and everybody in the family begins to try to relate to this late-coming “dad,” who is a charming hippie organic farmer. The film’s strength is that it shows the two moms as, hey, just an ordinary couple with ordinary couple problems and helps viewers who might have stereotypical ideas about same-sex couples, reconsider. And yes, the kids are all right– they have not been adversely affected by having moms instead of a mom and a dad. Score another point for same-sex marriages.
Now, then–all hell breaks loose when Jules (played by Julianne Moore) begins doing some landscaping for Paul (Mark Ruffalo). He appreciates Jules’ work, whereas her partner Nic is something of a control freak and tends to behave “one-up” in her relationship with Jules. Jules surprises herself by falling into lust with Paul, and after one tryst, they can’t stay away from each other. He’s falling in love with her, and begins to see that this family thing is really nice, what with the two almost-grown children he now has in his life.
Now I like this film–it captured my attention all the way through with excellent acting and a fine script–but I began to have a problem with the resolution–or non-resolution of the relationship between Paul and Jules. Basically, Nic finds out about the affair, confronts Jules, and of course the children find out. Everyone is mad at Paul for messing up this tidy family. Paul comes over and apologizes abjectly to everyone, and then stands outside the house and in anger and disgust with himself, throws his motorcycle helmet on the ground. Jules makes a pat speech to the Nic and the kids about how tough marriage is, but how you just have to work through the tough times, and says that she’s sorry for the affair and that she loves Nic. And that’s supposed to be the end of it?
No, that’s what I don’t buy. The passion between Jules and Paul is real and was strong, so where are these two going to go with that? Is it really “all over”? Are the kids never going to see their biological father again? Will Paul never be a part of the family? Also, Nic is not really a very sympathetic character, as I see her. She comes across as terribly controlling and condescending–plus being uptight and something of a budding alcoholic. For my money, Paul is a much nicer person. Yeah, yeah, I know other reviewers are describing him as “self-absorbed.” I’m not sure exactly why–he is a business man with an organic farm and a restaurant. He seems to be genuinely sensitive and relational. And he is way sexy.
So if Jules is going to give up the passion she has with Paul, who genuinely respects her and cares for her, plus their shared interest in farming and gardening–which we’re all thinking she must do, because no body wants a lesbian couple to break up on screen, and we all want the children to have an intact home, then I wish the director had made Nic a little nicer, a litter easier to live with.