This Is to Mother You
BY Ari Karpel
July 07 2010 3:00 AM ET
Click here to read more about Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right and other modern families.
There’s one small part of Lisa Cholodenko’s movie The Kids Are All Right that no journalist can resist bringing up.
“You can’t believe how many fucking people have asked me about the gay male porn,” Cholodenko declares before I’ve even mentioned the Colt-style, vintage muscle flick that lesbian moms Nic and Jules put on while having sex—and that their straight teenage son, Laser, gets caught watching with a friend.
“ ‘So is that from personal experience?’ ” she asks, mocking her interrogators before offering up the answer she’d really like to give: “Shut up! It’s none of your fucking business!”
Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about the movie—which, despite the aforementioned porno, is a surprisingly mainstream, agenda-free comedy-drama with Oscar-caliber performances by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as the lesbian couple and Mark Ruffalo as their kids’ newly discovered donor dad. The Kids Are All Right is the first so-called lesbian film to reach beyond the indie niche and become a full-on American family movie that’s—dare we say it—a little bit square in its depiction of the nuclear, albeit gay, unit.
“You know what? It is kind of square!” blurts the writer-director between bites of a salad, her late lunch at a café in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. But this time she’s not upset. “The whole thing’s kind of dirty and kind of square. I like that. I’m kind of in that place. I’m tired, man.”
Who can blame her? Since making her first two films—1998’s High Art and 2002’s Laurel Canyon, which earned her indie cred for exploring fluid sexuality in the countercultural milieus of Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s heroin-fueled art scene and the Hollywood Hills’ rock and roll bohemia, respectively—Cholodenko’s life has changed dramatically. The 46-year-old Los Angeles native is now a full-fledged working mom to 4-year-old Calder, her son with her partner of eight years, Wendy Melvoin (Cholodenko gave birth using an anonymous sperm donor).
“It’s brutal,” Cholondenko says of being moms with full-time (and then some) jobs. “We both have these kinds of jobs that you can’t just cut bait and go home.” Melvoin is half of Prince’s former backup duo, Wendy and Lisa, who now write musical scores for TV shows like Nurse Jackie. “So we have a nanny and there’s a lot of ‘Who’s going to be with the kid? You can’t get off early?’ ”
Before day-care anxiety took over, Cholodenko was possessed by a certain empathetic notion: She was imagining what 18 years down the road might be like for her child, conceived through artificial insemination and yearning for some connection to his real father. Thus, The Kids Are All Right was born.