The Kids Are All Right is the all-American family tale. Or almost. In the film, an affluent couple has to cope with new issues of family domain when the kids want to know who provided the life juice. The affluent couple? Lesbians. Totally classic, right? Questions about family, parenting roles, long-term relationships are being raised in a traditional yet (for an American film) unconventional manner. We talked to Mark Ruffalo (who plays the biological father) about the film and his idea of family values.
What I thought was interesting was that if you forget for a second that we are looking at lesbian parents this movie would not be different from any other American family movie.
In a lot of ways it’s a very conservative, pro-family kind of film, which I think is great. Maybe that’s why it played so well in America – even though I was hoping for some controversy. It was very pleasing to people. It does a lot for the political argument by jumping right over the political argument. It goes into the universality of marriage and family. You are not bogged into the controversy, which might be polarizing in an argument, but instead it focuses on the human aspects. How could you judge or hate people that have the same values as us. This is why this movie is so great. We do see ourselves in those characters. This is us as teenagers, wives, and dads.
What are your views on family values?
I think it is so deeply ingrained in the human heart to make a family that we do it no matter where we are, and in the strangest configurations. The only family value I see is that family is a value. If you are talking about the American Christian/conservative understanding of family values I don’t really understand what they are talking about. We make a family. We either live with our own, create a new one, have one at work or with friends… but no matter what: we need each other. We need each other to grow to feel connected to each other.
Questions of nature vs. nurture arise during this film. The “real” father hasn’t been present for the childrens’ entire lives. How does he cope with suddenly being a father?
He might feel like a father, but he cannot be one. You cannot become a father in one day. This is a very long process and not something you can just jump into. He is a friend to them. He is blessing them, by being there for them and accepting them for who they are. It’s important for him to be able to give that to them at that stage. Obviously it does get out of control… I think he would like to be more fatherly, but he is kind of child-like himself.
Did you learn anything from your character?
It reminded me of listening. As a father you want to give your kids so much, so much advice and help that sometimes you forget to listen. That’s hard to keep up. And I think my character does just that. Seeing those kids for who they are rather than seeing them for who he wants them to be.
Do you think that Julianne Moore’s character was more attractive to your character because she is a lesbian?
I guess every man has been there, had that fantasy… That’s a very heterosexual thing: “Yeah I could flip a lesbian” [laughs] – which is insane.