|Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right. Photograph: c.Focus/Everett / Rex Features|
Talking animals, phoned-in sequels and rom-coms written by someone who apparently learned about human behaviour from hen parties and stag weekends are the usual summertime multiplex fare. Yet this year the decreed Movie of the Summer, which was completely sold out the night I went to see it three days after its release in the US, features a middle-aged lesbian couple and dialogue that one can't imagine ever coming out of Jennifer Aniston's mouth.
The Kids Are All Right, starring Annette Bening (particularly great in this) and Julianne Moore, has rendered the most cynical critics on the driest American papers near hysterical. "Just about everyone who has been a parent, child or partner will find resonance in its bittersweet depiction of the joys and trials of lifelong intimacy," sighed the Washington Post. The New York Times's critic, A O Scott, was so overcome he fell into a state of ellipses. He longed to describe The Kids Are All Right as "the best comedy since . . ." yet "grounds for comparison seem to be lacking so I may have to let the superlative stand unqualified for now".The plot, admittedly, sounds like a bad sitcom: the teenage kids of a lesbian couple track down their feckless biological father (Mark Ruffalo, basically reprising the role he played in You Can Count On Me, which The Kids Are All Right resembles in pace and tone). Yet director/writer Lisa Cholodenko is too good to churn out a sapphic My Two Dads. Her movie is smart, hilarious and will do for heirloom tomatoes what When Harry Met Sally did for people who order things "on the side".
But the plaudits have not precluded debate. Predictably the most attention-grabbing issue has been whether, as happens in the movie, lesbians watch gay male porn and, if so, why. This has resulted in articles on websites such as The Daily Beast, filled with explanations that one doesn't usually see on websites that don't have a triple x in their domain name.
Cholodenko has not just made a film about lesbians feel mainstream, or a good movie about lesbians, or even a smart summer movie: she has made a great film.