August 12, 2010 at 1:10 pm EDT | by Kathi Wolfe
Searching for wedded bliss in reel life

Lights, camera, action! Prop 8’s been overturned!

Much will be written (shouted from the rooftops!) about the legal and psycho-social ramifications of U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s Aug. 3 historic ruling (declaring the 2008 voter approved same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional). A card-carrying lesbian, I don’t want to be left out of the loop. But, as a movie-loving (O.K. celluloid addicted) queer, I have a special plea. Let’s not forget about same-sex matrimony in the movies.

Some of us spend our real lives searching for Mr. or Ms. Right. I’m among those who search for wedded bliss in reel life – on the silver screen.

In a moment of irony that would have seemed too contrived if written by a screenwriter, I learned of Walker’s Prop 8 ruling when I returned home after seeing “The Kids Are All Right” for the second time at the Bethesda Row Cinema.

Spoiler alert: The dramedy, centered on lesbian couple Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) and their teenage kids (18-year-old Joni played by Mia Wasikowska and 15-year-old Laser played by Josh Hutcherson) who search for and meet with their biological father (sperm donor Paul played by Mark Ruffalo), has been the talk of the town this summer.

My straight friend George was surprised to find the indie film, directed by Lisa Cholodenko and a hit at the Sundance Film Festival last January, playing in upstate New York.

“Everybody was there,” he told me, “single people. Teens. Gay and straight couples. Grandmothers.”

Gay men and lesbians have kids “now,” Jean, my 81-year-old stepmother told me over the phone recently, “They’re getting married. Why shouldn’t they get married in the movies?”

It’s not clear whether Jules and Nic (the queer lovebirds of the year) are legally married in “The Kids Are All Right.” But their coupled-ness is a visceral presence. They’ve been together since college — a time when listening to Joni Mitchell (after whom they named daughter Joni) put you in touch with “the goddess.”

This couple has lived through passionate sex, make-up sex and career changes. Nic, a way too tightly wound OBGYN who supports the family financially, and Jules, the slightly flaky creative type who dabbles in various businesses and takes care of the kids, have their clashes. When Joni and Laser connect with Paul, all hell breaks loose.

I wish I could join the critical love fest for “The Kids Are All Right.” Cholodenko, a lesbian, was audacious to make this movie — the first picture featuring a lesbian couple raising a family to become, if not a blockbuster, an indie success with mainstream audiences. The film is well acted, the teens and Paul are engaging, and Cholodenko’s screenplay, co-written with Stuart Blumberg, has some terrific dialogue and catchphrases.

What I can’t buy into is the marriage (whether legal or not) of Nic and Jules in “The Kids Are All Right.” While Joni, Laser and Paul come across as three-dimensional characters, the lesbians seem to be one-dimensional types. I don’t mean stereotypes. The movie isn’t homophobic. But the personalities of the lesbian couple are flat and annoying. I know we lesbians are known for our “processing.” Yet, how many of us say things like “we just talked conceptually” and “it hasn’t risen to the point of consciousness for you,” as Nic and Jules do repeatedly in the movie?

Anyone who’s been in a relationship knows that marriage is hard. There are fights over money, chores and sex. There’s the seven-year-itch. But when marriages are solid, there’s also love, affection, attraction, and dare I say, even romance, between the spouses. This is what is missing in the union of Nic and Jules. There’s no bliss to their wedlock. They’re just locked together.

Movies are a parallel universe, providing us with a vision of the world. Let’s create same-sex unions on the silver screen that are filled with love, romance, wit as well as drama. There’s a need as never before for Hepburn and Hepburn and Tracy and Tracy.

1 Comment
  • My husband Jim and I bumped into Kathi the first time she saw “The Kids Are All Right” and we three caught a bite together after the show. We all agreed that the kids and sperm-donor dad were characters fleshed out but disappointingly not the Les Moms. I do want to say that I loved how Nic sings “Blue” by Joni Mitchell and that if we had more of this stuff from the heart, the film would have been a lot better. I was also annoyed at Jules for lying about why her helper in Paul’s garden got fired. I guess what the three of us were looking for was a transformation of Nic and Jules because this was suppose to be their story and how they raised kids that were OK.

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