Mitch Miller died last month at 99. The King of Singalongs. I love what he once said about Rock ‘n’ Roll, calling it “musical babyfood.” My sentiments exactly.
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A few weekends ago I spent Saturday and Sunday munching popcorn and catching up on must-see movies—Dinner for Schmucks and The Kids Are All Right.
The plot of Schmucks was a little weak, but Steve Carell truly is a comic genius. I can’t think of another comic actor, not even Jim Carey, who could have made this role of Barry the idiot as funny as Carell did. Some reviewers hated it (Entertainment Weekly); some reviewers loved it (Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic). But all pointed to Carell’s skill at bringing out the pathos of the character, whose hobby of building mice dioramas was both comic as well as pathetic. Go see it and then forget it.
Then there’s The Kids Are All Right. You either love it or you hate it. I checked out viewer comments on-line and found the lovers praising the film’s honesty and acting (Benning will probably be up for an Oscar) and the haters really hating the graphic sex scenes (male/male, female/female, male/female). But no film up to now has captured the complexities of the nuclear family as this one has. It’s hard to call it a comedy when it faces so many serious issues relating to families. The plot is as convoluted as the family—a lesbian couple who each bear one child using the same sperm donor, the two children, and the sperm donor. Throw them together, mix well, and you get a very complicated tangle of lives. At one point near the end, Benning, the dominant partner in the marriage, screams at Ruffalo, the kids’ biological father, that he’s an interloper, that he should go find his own family. Ruffalo has indeed inserted himself into the family, first by bonding with Joni and Laser, the kids, and second by the unfortunate affair he has with Jules (Julianne Moore), the other half of the lesbian couple. But, in fact, he’s been invited into the family by the kids, who went looking for him, and the physical attraction between him and Moore is certainly as much her fault as his. Maybe the best scene in the movie is during a dinner prepared by Paul for the other four. Nic (Benning) has discovered that Paul likes Joni Mitchell, one of her favorite singers, and the two of them join in an impromptu duet of Mitchell’s “Blue,” a perfectly charming connection between the two combatants. But then Nic discovers that her wife Jules has been sleeping with Paul, and all hell breaks loose. Later, at home, she confronts Jules and shouts, “Are you going straight on me?” And when the kids find out about it, they part ways with Paul. Will he ever be able to reconnect with this family? The answer to that lies in the hat he had given to Joni one afternoon when they were working in his vegetable garden. She loved it, but she threw it on the floor when she was packing to go to college. And, later, we could see the hat on top of a piece of her luggage, going with her after all. Very complicated, funny, honest, excellent. Go see it and remember it forever.