The kids may be okay, but the grown-ups are a complete mess! That was my reaction about half-way through. I mean what the heck! I thought this was going to be a really smart, funny movie that made us think again, and deeply, about marriage and family. Instead, writers Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, buy into all the traditional beliefs and assumptions about these societal units and leave us bereft of any new perspective or inspiration.
Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a lesbian couple stuck in a hellish marriage, and are ultimately, committed to staying there. Paul (Mark Ruffalo), their sperm donor, on the other hand, refuses to commit to any meaningful relationship and spends his life, always looking in from the outside. Instead of using Jules’ affair with Paul as an opportunity to acknowledge that something is seriously wrong with their union, Nic and Jules scapegoat him and cut him out of the lives of the kids, who really yearn for his presence and input. Cruel!
According to Rottentomatoes.com, the film is a “…smart, warm statement on family values.” To which I say, “What family?!” Clearly, Paul is part of the family and they need to acknowledge that. That would have been a much more authentic and evolved way to develop the story. If they want to talk “alternative family,” then they need to go all the way. Nic should have forgiven Jules and Paul, and found a way to bring him into the family, even after the affair.
As a commentary on marriage in the 21st century, the film again falls short of depicting any possibility that would dare to inspire. “Marriage is hard. It’s really f—-ing hard. It’s just two people slogging through the sh—, year after year…” Really!? Sounds like a lot of marriages that have simply run their course, or are in need of a radical overhauling. It’s a miracle that the kids are all right. Let’s hope they stay that way, and don’t go on to make the same mistakes their parents made.
What can we learn from all this?
Marriage is still marriage, no matter how alternative it may look on the outside. It is an institution that is not naturally inclined to support the growth and development of those within it, and it can become a lot like “hell” if you’re not very careful.
1. Pick your mate very wisely and with your truest heart. Make sure you know yourself very well indeed, before you choose to marry (these days, before age 32/33 – not so good) and ensure that your mate is a soul-match.
2. Allow your mate and yourself, lots of room to grow and develop. Encourage them to fulfill their potential. Don’t hold them back out of fear.
3. Should things change, be willing to face the truth and move on in a healthy way. Remember that you’re a better role model for your kids when you are honest and true to yourself. So don’t stay in a bad marriage “for the kids’ sake.”
I am doing a series of posts on lessons from the films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Up next: Lessons from “Toy Story 3.”