UNFINISHED SYMPHONIES: Henri-George Clouzot’s Inferno and An Unfiinished Film/


Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno is, like the film The Epic That Never Was (about Joseph Von Sternberg’s I, Claudius), a film about a movie that never got made. Henri-George Clouzot is one of France’s greatest filmmaker, known primarily over here for a handful of films: Les Diaboliques, The Wages of Fear, Les Corbeau, The Mystery of Picasso, etc. In France, he’s almost equally famous for a film he never finished, L’Enfer, a movie he started shooting in 1964, but was ill fated to never complete. That took thirty more years when Claude Chabrol produced his version in 1994.

The story is about a man, played by Serge Reggiani, who thinks his wife, played by Romy Schneider, may be cheating on him; what made the film version by Claude Chabrol so interesting is that even though you felt the husband was being paranoid, there was the very real possibility he was right; his wife could have been making whoopee with a rather hunky car mechanic (hey, it is Romy Schneider we’re talking about). It is easiest to discuss this documentary, written by Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea and directed by Bromberg, by dividing it into two parts: the sections devoted to the facts of the case, the reasons for the film never being completed, and the sections devoted to an experimental approach Clouzot was using to express the lead character’s paranoia.

The story about the film itself is the most satisfying section of the movie. It details how Clouzot, normally a person who plans well ahead and is very methodical in the way he usually made movies, was overwhelmed by Hollywood money and began acting like Michael Camino, recklessly spending; living the high life; and never being able to decide when something was done. At one point he had Reggiani run across a bridge over and over again until he got it just right (what is this, a Stanley Kubrick production). Clouzot had three sets of technicians that were supposed to be setting up different scenes and shots at different locations so that Clouzot would be able to go from place to place and shoot the scenes in one day, except that Clouzot could never seem to finish the first shot and move on. He had only a limited time to shoot the film as it was because the lake he was using was going to be drained. And then Reggiania, no longer able to take Clouzot’s treatment of him (including the continual sprint across the bridge), quit. Reggiani was replaced by Jacques Gamblin, who quickly quit himself. Hey, when a ship starts to sink, it starts to sink.

A second section of the documentary is devoted to scenes from the movie itself. Most of the film was to be shot in black and white, representing the realistic parts of the plot, and there are some very beautiful scenes here with the husband being haloed by a bridge and a scene where he makes that run across the bridge and along a ridge watching his wife water ski with the mechanic. But there’s also a series of experimental shots and scenes in color that are supposed to reveal the jealous husband’s inner mental journey. These are scenes that would be a wet dream to many avant garde filmmakers. The problem here is that the filmmakers show these scenes over and over and over and over and over again. One gets the gist of what Clouzot was trying to do fairly quickly, but one still has to see the same old scene again and again and again and again. It weighs the film down and makes it difficult to stay involved. It’s as if the filmmakers were trying to convince the audience that they were missing out on something artistically brilliant with these scenes, but they do it with a feeling of such desperation, it actually has the opposite effect. Instead of thinking I missed out on a masterpiece, I just wanted to miss out on the rest of the documentary.

An Unfinished Film is also about a movie that is, well, unfinished (there’s nothing like truth in advertising). During the occupation of Warsaw and after the creation of the Ghetto, Hitler’s regime decided to film a documentary about life in that infamous location. Though no one knows exactly what that purpose was, it seems that it was supposed to demonstrate that life in the Ghetto wasn’t necessarily that bad and if it was bad for anyone, it was because the Jews themselves refused to make things better. The suggestion was to be that there was an upper class of wealthy Jews who lacked for nothing, but who were content to let those that were less well off suffer. For some reason, again no one knows, the filming was stopped and the movie never completed. What was filmed was kept in a vault along with other records of the same time period.

This is where I’m probably going to get in trouble. Though the subject matter is important and even fascinating in and of itself, and it’s a story that needs to be told, the documentary itself left me a bit puzzled and cold. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was supposed to bring away with me. I learned that the film had been made, but I’m not sure I learned much more than that and I’m also not sure that that’s enough. It certainly couldn’t help the filmmaker, Yael Hersonski, who wrote and directed, that so much of the whys and wherefores are not available. Only one cameraman was located and though he did a lot of filming, he knew next to nothing about why he was being asked to do it. In addition, in 1966, an additional can of film was discovered that showed outtakes of scenes from the earlier reels. It showed that the scenes already filmed were not cinema verite, as the saying goes, but were carefully staged, edited and crafted with a purpose in mind (at one point, Jews who weren’t razor thin from starvation were herded into a fancy restaurant created for the sole purpose of filming a luxurious repast, and given what was probably the last good meal most of them ever got, in order to prove the economic disparity of those living in the Ghetto). As fascinating as that is, I still wasn’t sure why I was being told this.

I went to see it with my friend Beriau and he gave me some insightful information. He told me he had seen scenes from the unfinished film in other documentaries about the Warsaw Ghetto, and that creators of these other films had always taken these scenes at face value, that it was accepted as fact that there was a wide disparity of wealth in the Ghetto. With the discovery of the new reels, it was revealed that these scenes were not an accurate depiction of Ghetto life, but were a lie. And that all those in the past who had claimed that there were Jews who were well off had gotten it wrong. And this was supported by survivors of the Ghetto who watched the film and told the filmmakers the truth of what had really taken place. When he told me this, all I could think was, if only this had been what the film had been about, how the earlier cans of films had been misused to prove something untrue. Instead we have a bare as bones recitation of facts that for me needed a bit more history and context than I was given.

PILGRIM’S PROGRESS: OR ROMANTIC COMEDY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN LOS ANGELES: reviews of Cyrus and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


I read not long ago that many feel the romantic comedy is dead. Usually when someone makes a statement like that, what is really means is not that the genre is dead, but that the person may be looking in the wrong location. When one speaks of modern romantic comedy, people usually drop the names Jennifer Anniston, Sandra Bullock, Katherine Heigl and Julia Roberts, what might be called the Irene Dunne/Claudette Colbert, Ernst Lubitsch/Leo McCarey approach, a sophisticated, battle of the sexes. In reality, perhaps they should have been looking at a more Preston Sturgess/John Hughes approach to romance, something a bit more messy and anarchic. Last year we had (500) Days of Summer. This year we have Cyrus and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

I have never been a big fan of mumble core films. I never could get that emotionally involved with the characters. For me, this subgenre of a subgenre of films have been about overeducated people who think they are interesting, but aren’t. Baghead is one of the few mumble cores that have worked for me, possibly because it didn’t seem quite so self absorbed. Instead of containing the usual suspects found in this type of film, Baghead was about someone who was tired of not making a movie, so he decides to make one; and an entertaining good time it was, too. The makers of Baghead, Mark and Jay Duplass, aka the Duplass Brothers, have now made a new movie using the mumble core style (the feeling of improvisation, the hand held camera, the low budget look), and possibly because it isn’t about the same olds, same olds usually found in these sorts of films (including, for me, The Puffy Chair, also by the Duplass Brothers, which in full faith and disclosure was one of those films I didn’t care for), all I could think is that it’s amazing what one can do with this style when you have a good script and even better actors.


Cyrus (Jonah Hill) is the son of Molly (Marisa Tomei), a widow who has perhaps grown a bit too close to her offspring. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that Cyrus has grown too close to his mother. Molly still goes out and tries to live her own life, keeping herself open to a new romance. Meanwhile, though Cyrus has reached the age where most kids have fled their home for saner pastures, he’s holding on to the homestead with all the tenacity of a farmer threatened by cattle barons in a studio western of the old days. The cowboy who wants to cut down all the barbed wire Cyrus has put up is John (John C. Reilly), a sad sack downer of a person who has never recovered from his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) leaving him and who left because, well, he’s kind of a sad sack downer of a person. But there’s no hard feelings. Jamie’s the one who gets John to go to the party where he meets Molly who rescues John from an evening where he’s flummoxed from one embarrassing scene to another with all the geeky, yet balletic, beauty of a Woody Allen (and who’d have thought one would ever want to hear the song Don’t You Want Me, Baby again). When Cyrus meets John, it becomes take no prisoners as the two fight to the death (almost literarily at one point) over Molly’s attention.

Cyrus is very funny in one of those dark, edgy, almost sick comic ways. In other words, it’s my cup of tea, Sweet ‘n Low laced with a bit of arsenic. The direction, by the Duplass brothers, is very clever. They have a habit of pushing the camera in just at the right moment to take advantage of a funny moment, almost like a laugh track (which should be a negative, but here just seems to add a punch line to a punch line). The camera almost never seems to be on the person talking, but almost invariably on the person reacting as the other person talks, the last place you would think one would want the focus to be. Yet, this decision is one of the sources of all the humor. Of course, it helps to have a great reactor in Reilly, one of our finest character actors, supported more than ably by Tomei and Keener. The weak one of the bunch is perhaps Jonah Hill, but he fights to his last bated breath to keep up with the others and doesn’t let the movie down. I’m also not convinced that Reilly’s character is totally consistent. John starts out as a person who’s every waking hour seems to suggest a person out of his depth; then he meets Molly and he becomes one of the most brilliant strategists since Napoleon. But if he’s not consistent, Reilly does too brilliant a job of covering it up. In fact, the whole thing feels a bit shaggy dog, as shaggy dog as Reilly looks. Cyrus may be caustic, but so oft is the course of true love. And when the last frame vanishes from the screen one is a tad verklempt at the possibility of two lonely people finding each other.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is awesome. It’s amazing. It’s even better than that: it’s swell. If it’s not one of the best films of the year, it’s certainly one of the most fun. Scott is a guitarist in a band who is fake dating a seventeen year old high school student; who lives and sleeps in the same bed as his gay friend; who hasn’t been able to get over his last girlfriend, who is now the lead singer of the next big band; and who falls hopelessly in love with Ramona Flowers, a woman hopelessly out of his league. Just a typical day for the new generation, apparently, since no one seems that surprised at his predicament. Ramona, in turn, does begin to fall for Scott’s lack of charm (he’s the nicest person she’s ever dated, normally the kiss of death in any relationship, but here it actually seems to work in Scott’s favor, who knew?). But in order to win Ramona’s hand in dating, Scott has to defeat in battle her seven evil ex-boyfriends, something he starts doing before he even realizes that that’s what he’s doing.

Of course, Scott is not battling her exes. He’s actually defeating the baggage they left her with. It’s a metaphor. In fact, the movie is nothing but one huge metaphor. Almost everything is both literal and symbolic. Scott must defeat the bad effect Ramona’s exes had on her in order to free her up to love him. The real scary part is how accurate a metaphor this is for love. One doesn’t have to win the present, one also has to defeat the past, which is much more difficult. And it’s all played out metaphorically in which each battle is one level of a video game with each level becoming more and more difficult. The fights are battles right out of Asian anime: love’s a game and a battlefield at the same time.

It would be interesting to know how much the look of the film came from the director Edgar Wright; the screenplay by Wright and Michael Bacall; or the source material, a series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It would be very difficult for me to believe that the style of the movie didn’t come directly from the graphic novels themselves. The movie uses every CGI trick in the book. Scott hits his head on a telephone pole and the word “thunk” appears on the screen (Holy insert, Batman); his 17 year old fake girlfriend says she loves him and the word comes out of her mouth like a smoke ring and he bats it away before it can reach him; Scott opens a door and he’s across town; people leap at each other like an animated version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; defeated characters turn into coins worth points in a game; swords appear inside Scott. It’s like Annie Hall on acid. But it works and when Scott and Ramona find each other at the finale, one feels like the two have earned their happy ending. Some have commented that this approach overshadowed the emotion of the story. I disagree. For me, Wright and Bacall found the perfect balance to showmanship and emotional empathy.

Most of the criticism of Scott… has focused on Scott, or actually, Michael Cera, who plays Scott, as perhaps not the best choice for the role. And I can’t say I disagree with them. Cera has a rather nerdy look and his humor comes from underplaying his emotions and talking out of the corner of his mouth. He’s not the most dynamic of personalities, which is actually the key to his comic timing and success. But it is a bit hard to believe that Ramona would ever give him the time of day. She is truly out of his league. The role might have worked better with someone more like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also has a slight nerdy look (at least if he wants to have it), but is a much stronger performer. At the same time, Cera commits himself to the role and the directors and writers have so tailored it to his abilities, that Cera never actually hurts the movie and his droll, dry, arid delivery gets more than its fair share of laughs. The best performance in the whole movie is probably given by Kieran Culkin, though, as Wallace, Scott’s friend who has allowed Scott half his bed and residency in his extremely small studio apartment. It’s probably also one of the best written gay characters in American movies in some time. It also shows where modern society is when a straight man can share a bed with a gay man without any fear of being called queer, yet at the same time can ask Wallace not to stick around the night Scott has Ramona over for fear Wallace might gay up the place (and then in actually, it’s Scott who’s the real danger of gaying it all up). This is the real threat to Prop 8.

NEW BLOOD AND PLENTY OF IT: Review of Mesrine: Part I, Killer Instinct


Jacques Mesrine is the French John Dillinger, a larger than life criminal who got a reputation as a Robin Hood without, like Dillinger, ever giving anything to the poor. He’s played in Mesrine, Part I: Killer Instinct, by the exciting French actor Vincent Cassel, son of French movie star Jean-Pierre Cassel. Cassel pers is more known for his appearances in the cinema that grew out of the French new wave, a studied and careful style of movie making influenced by the Hollywood studio system and directors like Hitchcock, Huston and Ford. As Cassel fils said in a Q&A at an interview of a sneak preview of Mesrine at the American Cinemateque, he and others of his generation had to find their own voice because their father’s way of making movies wasn’t doing it for them anymore. This resulted in movies still influenced by America, but now by Scorcese and Coppola (and the wheel comes full turn). In France, the movement has been termed “new blood”, partially, probably, because there is a lot more of that liquid on the screen. This also meant that Cassel fils had to find his own voice as well, and unlike his father who made films like Army of Shadows, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and Murder on the Orient Express. Vincent is known for playing thugs and dangerous characters in movies like Eastern Promises, Irreversible and The Crimson Rivers.

And Mesrine is all Cassel. Apparently it’s his baby, a vanity project that he’s been working on for many years, and he is mesmerizing in the role. Mesrine was one of those people who had charm. He could insult your ethnic background and wear his racism on his sleeve, but he had charm. He could beat up women, but he had charm. He could kill people with the cool, clear collectiveness of a sociopath, but he had charm. He apparently also gave great headlines and knew how to talk to the press. Cassel said his biggest challenge was in charming the audience and making Mesrine interesting in spite of his viciousness. And Cassel succeeds. No matter what the faults of the movie may be, one is fascinated by this character and much of this is due to Cassel’s riveting and, well, charming performance.

Cassel said that he thought that one of the reasons why Mesrine is attractive to an audience is that he was someone who would say “no” to people, to the authorities, something that all of us would love to be able to do, but almost never have the courage to try. I think that’s true, but I also agree with my friend Beriau who saw the movie with me. He thinks that Mesrine is attractive because he was willing to make the romantic gesture, no matter the odds. He breaks out of prison and promises to return to help the others escape, an absolutely ridiculous idea doomed to failure (and the result is tragic), but he made the promise and he does it. He calls his girlfriend in prison and vows to break her out and she tries to convince him not to, that she doesn’t have that much time left to serve. But no, the romantic gesture demands he try. So in turn, she has to make the equally romantic gesture back and save his life by telling his that their relationship is over and she doesn’t want to see him again. He’s a sociopathic Don Quixote and Cyrano de Bergerac combined. He’s the epitome of European existentialism; the result is irrelevant, it’s the attempt, it’s the striving to be your authentic self that is important.

The weakest part of the movie is the screenplay itself, written by Abdel Raouf Dafri and Jean-Francois Richet, who also directed, from a book by Mesrine himself. The first part depends especially on a politically history of France that may be familiar to citizens of that country, but puzzling to those on these shores. It also tries to blame Mesrine’s sociopathology on his experiences in the Algerian war in a scene straight out of something that might have happened at Abu Ghraib; it feels oversimplified, though. One gets the feeling that Mesrine would have turned out to be a vicious, misogynistic, bigoted murder with little respect for human life even if he had been joined the Peace Corp. The story also feels a bit sketchy at times; the plot jumps from place to place and over periods of time without always letting the audience in on what’s going on (exactly who was that guy was who owned the Parisian casino that Mesrine and his girlfriend Jeanne robbed; who the hell knows; after awhile, it becomes who the hell cares). At the same time, it’s so skillfully put together and moves at such an exciting speed, that you end up not caring. At the interview, Cassel mentioned that people claimed that the editing felt very American, but he didn’t see it. I did. There was one scene of a car being blown up whose effect was extended by showing it happening again and again from different angles, and the attempted rescue from the prison is riddled not just with bullets, but myriad camera angles, giving it a very homegrown feeling. Add to that the thumping, hypnotic music score Eloi Painchaud and you got a pretty swell movie.

FAMILIES! CAN’T LIVE WITH THEM, CAN’T KILL THEM. OR CAN YOU? : reviews of Life During Wartime, The Kids are All Right and Winter’s Bones


Ten years ago, the jaundiced writer/director Todd Solondz created a film called Happiness, in which nobody was happy. I had serious issues with the movie. Even though I greatly admired the writing and thought the acting was superb with inspired casting (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Louise Lasser, Ben Gazzara, Jon Lovitz…Jon Lovitz? Yup, that was him), it was about a group of people that Solondz seemed to be criticizing for their cruelty and viciousness toward each other, both on purpose and through sheer ignorance at how they were coming across in their interactions. The issue I had is that Solondz himself treated the characters with the same cruelty and viciousness they showed each other and the hypocrisy ultimately weakened the movie for me.

Solondz has now come out with a new movie, Life During Wartime. It has what is called a gimmick for its plot. It takes all the characters of Happiness and meets up with them ten years later. It has a second gimmick. None of the characters are played by the same actors that played them in the original film. This sounds like genius, genius, I tells ya. But for me, it didn’t quite do it. In fact, I really felt that everything that the first one had going for it was missing from this semi-sequel. What first struck me was the uninspired casting. Though all the actors got the job done more or less, only two really rose to the heights of the original cast: Paul Reubens in the Jon Lovitz part (the Lovitz character killed himself in the first movie, so Reubens is basically a ghost, or a projection on the part of the character of Joy, played by the fragile voiced actress Shirley Henderson, who can’t seem to resolve the various issues in her life) and Ally Sheedy in the Lara Flynn Boyle role (and who is so good, one wishes she would have had the role in the original as Boyle was the weakest performance in the movie). While the actresses who played the sisters in the original seemed like siblings, that they actually could come from the same parents, here they look like they could only be sisters through adoption (or to paraphrase Pauline Kael, they seem to have only recently become a family). Other characters, like Ciaran Hinds, the child molester, don’t even seem to be the same character, but a whole new creation on Solondz’s part. In addition, whatever one might have thought about the original, the over the top plotting (child molesting; murder and dismemberment; dirty phone calls; suicide; one’s first jism) really kept one riveted. Here, nothing that much seems to be going on. Because of this, what seemed to be a brilliant and highly original idea, just seems more a puzzlement. The major question now becomes not why people are acting the way they are in Solondz’s universe, but why Solondz wanted to visit this universe again.

Winter’s Bone is also about a family that isn’t very nice to each other. But they aren’t nice about not being nice like in Happiness, where the characters throw out backhanded compliments and barely veiled insults, delivering them through smiling mouths and condescending gazes. In Winter’s Bone, the families actually go the distance and kill each other if the situation calls for it. Well, it’s not the way my family would handle it, but who are we to judge, really? And from the perspective of these people, the death of the central character’s father in this stark and unyielding movie (the title seems a very apt description) was called for. Winter’s Bone revolves around Ree Dolly, a teenager not quite old enough to join the army without her parents’ permission, and who is responsible for her two younger siblings and a mother who is barely functional emotionally. Her father was arrested for dealing meth (the main crop in the area where economic decay seems to have left locals with few choices), but then went missing when he was released on bond. Now, if he doesn’t show up for the hearing, the bond is forfeited and his house and land go up for sale to pay the debt, leaving Ree and her family homeless. My friend Jim, who went with me, observed that if this had been a typical Hollywood studio film, the main character’s goal would have been to find out who killed her father. I think he may be right. But here Ree doesn’t care who killed her father, partly because she knows that trying to find that out could lead to her death; but more importantly, she knows that her father deserved what he got. He broke the code of the locals by turning state’s evidence and that is just something one doesn’t do in this backwoods area. Winter’s Bone is a fine movie, the sort of movie that keeps me going to the theater. The script (by Anne Rosellini and Debra Granik) and directing (by Granik) are as taught and stark as the environment. The acting is first rate with Dale Dickey as Merab, the powerful wife of the head of the family who killed Ree’s father, and John Hawkes as a relative who looks like he’s wasting away from his drug addiction, taking the highest honors. Both have faces that look like the harsh winter background that surrounds them. You’d certainly never be able to recognize any of the actors by their head shots. Jennifer Lawrence as Ree carries the movie ably on her back. Dickey is the one with not just the best line, but the line that might summarize the whole culture Ree grew up in: when Dickey takes Ree to find her father, they go to a lake where his corpse has been submerged. They are there to cut off his hand so Ree can prove he’s dead (which means he didn’t skip bond and it is no longer forfeited), so Ree has to lift her father’s arm out of the lake. When Ree drops the body back into the water after the amputation, Dickey asks her why Ree did that; they have to take both hands or the authorities will think the person only cut off one of his hands so he wouldn’t have to go to jail; it’s a trick the authorities have caught on to (how many times did it take for this happened until the authorities realized they were being fooled).

The family in The Kids Are All Right aren’t very nice to each other either. But their sniping and bickering rises out of their being a family for so long. It’s not that they dislike each other, it’s more that they’ve lived together for so long, they’ve forgotten how to be nice to each other (that and many writers consider families that don’t snipe to be inherently uninteresting). The Kids Are All Right starts out as a variation on Boudu Saved From Drowning, the classic Jean Renoir movie from 1932 in which a homeless person, Boudu, is brought home by the head of a bourgeois family and moves him in after which Boudu proceeds to seduce everybody and destroy their middle class assumptions. In The Kids Are All Right, Boudu is Paul, played by Mark Ruffolo, an organic farmer/restaurant owner who always looks like he’s shaking something out of his hair like dirt being shaken off the roots of the vegetables he’s raising. He enters a household headed by Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) and proceeds to seduce everyone. He convinces the son Laser (Josh Hutchinson) to drop a friend that’s leading down a wayward path; he convinces the daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska) that it’s time for her to become more of an adult and wean herself away from her controlling parents; and he convinces Jules that she has talents and self worth in her own right and doesn’t need to exist only in the shadow of her spouse. The only one he has trouble seducing is Nic, but he gets her, too, eventually; though he gets her just as she realizes that he is a seducer, and his house of cards falls down. Now the movie begins to resemble Martin Scorcese’s version of Cape Fear in which De Niro tried to destroy Nick Nolte’s family, but in so doing, made them realize that there was something wrong at the core of their relationship and brought them closer together than they had been in some time. Here, Paul seduces and in so doing first destroys the family, but in doing so makes them realize that something has been wrong with the way things were for some time, and ironically they emerge stronger than they were before. Though The Kids Are All Right is intelligent and entertaining, there is also something about it that doesn’t quite work and that may be the character of Paul. It’s hard to know exactly how to feel about him at times and this ambiguity may be what’s throwing the whole thing off balance a bit. The key scene here is when Paul tells Jules that he loves her. This, to be ruthlessly honest, is not one iota convincing or believable mainly because his relationship with Jules is no different than any of his other relationships with women. Actually, from my perspective, Paul is almost as sociopathic as De Niro’s character in Cape Fear. He has sex with Jules, but while Jules has some sort of excuse (she is not getting the attention from Nic she needs and she is desperate for someone to tell her that she is worth something, anything), Paul has no such excuse. He seduces Jules for the same reason he seduces every other woman; he wants another notch on his bedpost (and his smirky, sly smile suggests that Jules being a lesbian is just icing on the cake). To prove just how evil he is, just look at the scene he has with Tanya (Yaya DaCosta), his fuck buddy, a woman who has clearly hinted (so clearly it was like hinting him over the head with a dirt clod from his garden) that she wanted to have a deeper relationship and even start a family; but when she asks if she can come over, he heartlessly accuses her of not wanting what he suddenly, out of nowhere, wants: a family. It’s cruel and heartless and shows someone who desperately needs to find a soul. But the question is, did the authors (Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko, who also directed) do this on purpose; and if they did, to what purpose? It actually reads a bit like the character of Paul sort of got away from them and they weren’t sure exactly what function they wanted him to serve. At the same time, The Kids Are All Right. is very enjoyable and a real crowd pleaser with an independent film veneer. It’s the Little Miss Sunshine of the year, one of these films that tries to convince people it’s being daring with its subject matter as well as a challenge to its audience. It isn’t and it isn’t, but that’s one of the reasons it’s so popular. It makes people think it’s something that it’s not; it has its cake and eats it to.