The Kids Are All Right

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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Dec 12, 2010 11:36 am

It's happened! The Houston Film Critics Society has nominated Julianne Moore in support. See the complete list of nominations here:

http://www.cinemasight.com/




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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Dec 12, 2010 9:59 am

A couple of points.

One, this was a rare "serious" summer film released at a time when most new releases were the usual movies for twelve year olds, which is what made it stand out at the time. It's really no more profound than, say, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation was in 1962 when Jimmy Stewart could say "sun on the beach" and housekeeper Minerva Uercal could get all worked up because she thought he was saying "son of a bitch", but it was mild titillation that stood out from the crowd.

Two, aside from Tom O'Neill and his minions, no one thinks Annette Bening is a "great" actress who "must" have an Oscar. She's good and a win for her would not be a disgrace, but most of us are keeping a wait and see attitude toward her potential win. Personally I think she's better than Natalie Portman, who is technically brilliant in Black Swan, but not the second coming that some critics make her out to be. I still have yet to see Lesley Manville, Nicole Kidman and Michelle Williams, whose performances on paper anyway seem like they could be more worthy of an Oscar than Bening this year, but maybe not.

Three, the film is a major step forward for the Lisa Choldenko, the director whose previous films, including High Art and Laurel Canyon were well received by the critics, but were not commercial hits. It's certainly easier to take than Precious and dare I say more memorable than the impossible to like Twice in a Lifetime. In a way it really does remind me of Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation and the more recent summer hit, Little Miss Sunshine, films that only the most conservative Christian fundamentalists would find shocking.

So, profound, no, edgy, no, but not banal either.




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Postby ITALIANO » Sun Dec 12, 2010 7:43 am

I've finally seen this one - better late than never. And only now I've allowed myself to read the reviews on this thread. I can only say that Uri and Damien trated this movie as it should be trated: it is pleasant to watch (sit-coms can be pleasant too), but definitely banal, and one wonders what some here saw in it. Is American cinema really so generally superficial nowadays that something like Kid Are All Right can be perceived as "profound"? I don't think so, I certainly hope not.
I hadn't read this thread but I had read Roger Ebert's review. It begins with these words:

"The Kids Are All Right centers on a lesbian marriage, but is not about one. It's a film about marriage itself, an institution with challenges that are universal. Just imagine: You're expected to live much, if not all, of your married life with another adult. We're not raised for this."

Ok, it's Roger Ebert. But how can a respected film critic use these concepts? One misses Pauline Kael, seriously. And then I watched the movie and I realized that it actually deserves these words - they are as predictable as the film they are referring to. (The director is supposed to be "edgy" and "independent" - and then she makes this kind-of tv movie?! In Europe "edgy" and "independent" are used for the Dardenne brothers).
This movie is admittedly not boring. It's not even as irritating as The Social Network is, and since The Social Network will get more nominations and awards, it will certainly be a more deserving target for my criticism. One might also say that The Kids Are All Right has an "important" social message, and that's a valid reason (to some) to support it. I personally didn't find anything especially revolutionary in it (and as others have pointed out, aspects of it are quite ambiguous), but even if I did - being politically on the right side doesnt, or shouldnt, protect a movie, or a book, from negative criticism. This movie does for lesbian couples what, say, Precious did for fat and poor blacks - or what the old, forgotten Gene Hackman vehicle Twice in a Lifetime did for heterosexual families. Which means - nothing much, really.
Like these movies, it's reasonably well acted. American actors can still be good, and the director is probably good in this area too. Now that I've seen it, the idea that Julianne Moore could be nominated in Support sounds even more absurd. She shouldn't be nominated at all, unfortunately - her performance here falls into what Uri would call "minor Moore". Too bad, but it's not only her fault. Ruffalo and Bening have better-written characters to deal with; they probably deserve the nominations they will likely get.
In an ordinary year, Annette Bening would never win an Oscar for this. Absolutely not. But this may not be an ordinary year - the competition seems at this moment not exactly poor but "vague" - and Bening isn't an ordinary actress. Or at least she isn't in the world of internet; it will be interesting to see if even in the REAL world, or at least in the Academy world, this good but not great actress is considered to be one of those who must win an Oscar at all costs. If that's the case, this is not only her best nominated performance but also a good - again: not great - one, and she's a straight actress playing (quite convincingly I must say) gay, and she's Mrs Warren Beatty - so it CAN happen. But right now I'd say no.

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Postby Sabin » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:51 am

I was incredibly surprised when my parents and my sister saw this movie a few months ago and said they didn't like it. They said it was like a sitcom. It really threw me for a loop because this is one of the few movies to be released this past year that I thought for sure they, if not everyone, would kinda flip for. It's accessible, warm, funny, and a breath of fresh air amidst a summer of mindless blockbusters.

I still agree with all those things, but my family is absolutely correct, right down to the afterschool special musical score. To be fair to composers Carter Burwell, Nathan Larson, and Craig Wedren, I wouldn't have a clue how to find any kind of melodic pacing to this either. It's just a series of scenes that ricochet from the snappily amusing to angst lecturing, with presumably a butt-load excised for pacing. This film would actually benefit from a more substantial-sized meal because there is a blessed ease with which these children perform that off-sets the high drama triangle of Bening, Moore, and Ruffalo. I anticipate a buffet of DVD offerings. The party that Mia Wasikowska in particular feels cleaved down the middle. And I really liked the aborted subplot of Josh Hutchinson palling around that brain-dead fuck-up; he all but vanishes halfway through the film. The title literally screams THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT...BUT ONE OF THESE MOMMIES IS GONNA WIN AN OSCAR!

Worst of all is the treatment of Mark Ruffalo's character. It screams ridiculous even more on a second viewing that the film just abandons him. Cholodenko wants to view him as a home-wrecker, pure and simple, but he's not. His love of Julianne Moore's character is a little forced, but really what this family represents is something sorely missing from his life, and there's something sad and human about it. And then he's just gone. He needs something else that the film refuses him. The end feels as forced as a Code film, desperately wrapping up whatever entertainment has been offered in a shroud of stifling "morality".

It's still a warm and entertaining little film that I'm glad has made an impact, but it's incredibly awkwardly plotted.
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Postby Sabin » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:32 am

(Damien @ Sep. 29 2010,12:02)
Ultimately, the film is unfair to Ruffalo's character -- and the audience is cheated by Cholodenko's refusal (or perhaps inabilty) to tie things up with him. He's sort of left hanging in the wind and we're not supposed to care because the couple holds hands in the car, and all'd right with the world. Except that the audience shouldn't accept this since Ruffalo's is the most charismatic and interesting character in the picture.

I'm glad I'm not alone on this one.
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Postby Damien » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:02 am

Finally caught up with this today. (Spoilerettes.)

I didn't like Lisa Cholodenko's other pictures, so I don't know why I was feeling hopeful about The Kids Are All Right. There's nothing terribly wrong with it, and maybe that's one of its problems. Everything is so predictible, and even the conflicts are as expected -- and are disposed of with minimal discomfort. And as accounts of two women whose relationship is sundered by the presence of a man, this is not D.H. Lawrence.

The film also gets a lot of little things wrong. It's one thing for the son to have a friendship with a "bad kid" -- it's exciting for a nice boy to have some semblance of danger in his life, but the movie is so constricted that we are never made aware of his regular friends -- after all, the kid is a jock. Mark Ruffalo's character is Gen X. It may be credible that his tastes in music run to Baby Boomer favorites, but no way he would have them on vinyl. And I don't know why in the world Bening's character expresses shock that a straight guy would be a Joni Mitchell fan. I know sooo many hetero males who love Joni (and when I was in high school in the early 70s, she would have easily won a poll as the student body's favorite female singer). No parents would drop off their kid at college without helping her unpack or, at least, after an 8 hour drive, hanging out on campus a bit, getting a bite to eat. And for some one with the pressures of running a restaurant, Mark Ruffalo sure seems to have a lot of free time on his hands. None of these things is a fatal flaw, but the culmination of these small mis-steps just points out the essential phoniness of the whole thing -- especially for a character-driven film.

Ultimately, the film is unfair to Ruffalo's character -- and the audience is cheated by Cholodenko's refusal (or perhaps inabilty) to tie things up with him. He's sort of left hanging in the wind and we're not supposed to care because the couple holds hands in the car, and all'd right with the world. Except that the audience shouldn't accept this since Ruffalo's is the most charismatic and interesting character in the picture. Moore is fine, but Bening's a bore. Cholodenko is certainly no visual stylist and her pacing is dull -- there's no rhythm to the film. Banal is the word for this movie.

5/10




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Postby Uri » Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:56 pm

By applying in reverse Tolstoy's logic to this movie, all American families must be happy since they're all the same. There's nothing gravely wrong with TKAAR, but everything about it is so generic, so reassuringly familiar it almost seems intentional – look at us, how can you deny us the right to marry when we are as unthreateningly banal as you? (Actually we're better – as we know, most gay kids are products of heterosexual couples, while at same sex households, as is clearly demonstrated her, all the kids are definitely, 100 percent straight).

And it seems it's always about doctor/architect/organic restaurateur, and the wine is always très chic, the décor is meticulous, there's always someone just about to go to college – extremely convenient for life reevaluating purposes - and the kids are always somehow instinctively smarter then adults. Tell me, do you Americans really get your life out of a mail order catalogue, the way your films suggest, or is it just that there are so many movies out there which look as they were efficiently assembled from pre fabricated mise-en-scènes, clearly cut emotions and ready to use morals.

I've been to Tel Aviv today especially to catch up with some recently released films I don't get to see in towns closer to where I live – the Inceptions of the world we do get everywhere. So as it happened, I saw TKAAR back to back with Alain Resnais' Wild Grass, and going from the delightful seemingly whimsical yet utterly convincing unpredictability of the latter straight to the lazy predictability of the former was a rather saddening experience.




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Postby Big Magilla » Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:00 pm

The latest rumor is that Bening will go for support. While I still don't think that's right, it makes more sense than Moore given the size of their roles.
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Postby Greg » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:13 am

Mister Tee wrote:I think it's a solid, down-the-middle comedic drama -- notches better than Little Miss Sunshine, though not, by me, as sharp as Sideways (not to relitigate that case, but for me it remains the gold standard of recent such films).

I think people should stop using, "It's the gold standard of. . ." as they inadvertently make themselves appear to be Ron Paul supporters. :;):
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Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:35 pm

I think it's a solid, down-the-middle comedic drama -- notches better than Little Miss Sunshine, though not, by me, as sharp as Sideways (not to relitigate that case, but for me it remains the gold standard of recent such films). There was a brief segment early (the one BJ references) where I feared the tone might tilt disastrously broad, but after that -- excluding a few moments involving the goofy gardener -- things stayed firmly grounded, and, even if the relationship insights weren't especially deep (and occasionally expressed too jargon-ly), they felt true and intelligent enough to merit two hours' attention.

I find the idea that anyone sees Bening/Moore as a lead/support situation utterly perplexing -- let alone that they would declare Bening the lead. For me, if anyone has more screen time, it's Moore, and I'd say her character has a broader range of dramatic interaction -- while Bening, for plot purposes, mostly stays off in a "don't rearrange my life" corner, which gives her character a standoffish/resistant vibe throughout. She does have that strong, silent post-"Blue"scene, but then Julianne has the 11 o'clock number in front of the TV set that, to me, is the clearest Oscar clip in the film. I'm not arguing for Julianne over Annette, especially (though I have -- since Coastal Disturbances onstage a quarter century ago -- found Bening a flavor without genuine appeal, whereas Moore, at least at times, I've adored). I'm saying they both deserve nominations here, as leads, and I don't see how so many people have tilted the discussion so far to one side.

Many have made the top/bottom argument about why Ledger and Gyllenhaal were ranked as they were for Brokeback. I wonder: does the fact that Bening's character is, in effect, the father/breadwinner of the family affect the placement here? You could push it further and argue Bening plays the only grown-up character in the film -- with Moore and Ruffalo being on some level just as much still kids as the teens. Is there something cultural there? Is Bening seen as lead by some because she's the responsible character?

I'd side with Magilla, that I didn't need more of Ruffalo, esp. not Ruffalo/Bening -- I thought her few words to him in that final scene expressed quite fully the problem she'd had with him from the start. In fact, I like precisely the way Ruffalo is used/evolves in the story -- as catalyst, as interloper, as seducer, as corrupter. Ruffalo is like the childless uncle who swoops in on a family and gets the kids to love him by acting as their friend, not a parent. Initially it seems like it helps the kids -- getting Laser to drop his crap friend. And his rebellion advice to Joni isn't without truth...but it also doesn't seem like something he has any right to encourage if he has partial pretensions to being a Dad. Finally, buying cigarettes for Julianne seems, somehow, even beyond the affair, a sign that this guy is too irresponsible to be brought into a previously mostly stable unit. It somewhat hurts, as a viewer, to see Ruffalo cast off into the wilderness, but, upon reflection, it feels like it was the right thing for this family to do.

I've not been much a fan of Cholodenko till now, and I can't say that even this makes me feel I'll run out to see her next film. Visually, she doesn't do much at all for me. But she's found something real and universal here (which I think will enable the film to continue to do strong box office, unlike more gay-specific pieces like Milk), and it's worth saluting.

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Postby Big Magilla » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:44 pm

It's a good relationship drama with five strong performances by Bening, Moore, Ruffalo and the two kids, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson.

I don't know where the speculation about Moore going for Supporting Actress came from - obviously from people who hadn't seen the film. If anything Moore has the larger role, though Bening has all the best lines.

I'm not sure if this will hold up as a Best Picture contender - it's still too early to tell - but given the dearth of really good roles for women it's hard to imagine that we will see five better performances this year than Bening's and possibly Moore's.

I don't think Ruffalo's character is short-changed at all. He is on screen no more, no less, than he needs to be.
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Postby Sabin » Wed Jul 21, 2010 6:29 pm

Spoilers at the end...

The only thing that Cholodenko has directed better than this movie is Patricia Clarkson's performance in High Art. I remember watching High Art and finding it fairly dull, and then Clarkson would show up. It's possible that this director will never make a movie as interesting as the scenes she has directed with Patricia Clarkson, but this movie comes close. I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed every character in a movie this much or that I enjoyed watching characters listen to each other this much. This movie has some of the most fantastic listening I've seen in a film in a while. These actors are obscenely at ease and Cholodenko deserves so much praise for this. Every gesture and reaction feels like a minor miracle. The film's great scene is the first dinner they are all together, and largely the film takes its cue from the behavioralism displayed there. And I do not think I will laugh harder in a while than listening to Moore trying to explain to Laser why she and Mommy watch gay porn.

Annette Bening has a confidence that it sometimes rather scary on-screen. Her earlier performances work best with a sharp, comic flair that beguiles her co-stars and keeps them at a distance, but she hasn't worked for me in a while. In American Beauty, this confidence was used for caricature and successfully. Here it conveys a lifetime spent constructing a family and being criticized for doing so. She's a woman who knows that her strength is often [accurately] confused as weakness. I have never seen her theatrical tendencies used to create someone so recognizably human, and it might be her best performance. The same might be said for Julianne Moore, another great actor of the 90's who has since petered off. Moore is a strange talent who I think is now starting to age incredibly gracefully. She used to excel at peeling back layers in women of limited capacity (Safe, Boogie Nights) to find something beautifully vulnerable underneath. Outside of Far From Heaven where she masterfully approximated something from a different era from the inside out, she has never been able to just relax on-screen and be funny. In some ways, I think hers is the bigger coup because I had no idea she could do this on any level. This movie is going to be nominated for Best Picture, but there is literally no justice if Moore is delegated to support while Bening retains lead. Less so than with Gyllenhaal and Ledger, less so than with Affleck. If both these actresses are nominated, I would be incredibly happy.

(Side note: I have seen quite a few fantastic performances by women this year in leading roles. Already my end of the year ballot is completely full.

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Hye-ja Kim, Mother
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Birgit Minichmayr, Everyone Else)


Before I get to Mark Ruffalo, I'd ask if anyone else felt that the childrens' stories felt truncated? What felt like build earlier on just kind of abruptly concluded with their respective friends. I feel as though the film recognized that Moore and Bening dominated the plot so thoroughly that the film needed to excise scenes for pacing. I certainly felt that near the third act (roughly after Bening's singing) the film started to lag. It's done no good service by a score that I could not stand, but I wonder if this film had as much as a half hour cut out of it. This movie is not about the kids, let's be honest. It's about the Mommy and Mommy and Daddy.

...which brings me to Mark Ruffalo and Spoilers!

...

...

...if Cholodenko's intention was to portray a family that does not need a heterosexual sperm donor mucking things up, then she failed. It takes two to tango and while Bening and Moore have a rocky road ahead of them, the place where they leave Ruffalo's character is unacceptable. He's too goddamn charming and likable to be left in such a frustrating place. Ruffalo plays a role very similar to Terry Prescott in You Can Count on Me. He's the irresponsible wanker who you want to get done with scolding so you can have a beer with him and hear what he's been up to. He's very good around the kids, and his relationship with Moore is very funny. That he immediately is lured into their family is totally believable and then he crosses the line and he's thrown away. He tries to give his children some advice before they go to college and he is shunned, and we last see him throwing his helmet against his motorcycle in despair. And that's it.

I want a scene between him and Bening. Does he have a place with this family? No, probably not. But his problems are just as real as Moore's and his intentions taken away from his indiscretions are as pure as anyone's for these kids. It's a hugely unsatisfying decision for Ruffalo's character, when the actor does so much heavy-lifting to make this guy seem flesh and blood. Before the end of the film, I was convinced that The Kids Are All Right should boast three nominated lead performances come Oscar time. Ruffalo is clearly supporting and that's a shame.
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Postby flipp525 » Mon Jul 19, 2010 12:03 pm

I very much fall of the side of BJ for this one: The Kids Are All right is intelligent, well-written, unpretentious, fun, runs smoothly and is, perhaps most importantly, relevant.

In advance of the category placement debate, these are two definitively lead female performances (with Ruffalo, I'd say, playing support). Bening's Nic is certainly more the dominant member of the relationship; she is the "provider" for the family and also seems to be the prime decision-maker, even down to the kind of wine they drink. However, Julianne Moore's Jules has an almost completely separate journey that takes place on her own accord. What I really liked about the arc of Bening's performance is that throughout the course of the film, it seems to slowly dawn on Nic that making decisions for the family and asserting herself as the more stable parent, has made her partner feel unnecessary, aimless and even resentful. It was sort of this, look we've gone ahead and eschewed the hetero-normative construct in an effort to achieve this kind of post-modern lesbian family and I've gone ahead and become precisely what I was always trying to avoid: the exacting, somewhat controlling husband in the relationship. I thought Bening telegraphed this extremely well, the apex of which was her sudden realization at the dinner table at Paul's house of what's going on with her wife and her own complicity in it. That could be some of the best acting I've seen from her, frankly.

Mia Wasikowska is definitely good--she's a committed performer, makes interesting choices and has an intense core that allows her teenager characters to figure more prominently (and believably) within adult-centric storylines. But I think she has a lot of room to improve. In her performance as Joni, I saw a lot of the tricks she seems to rely on as an actress: the self-important retorts, her annoyance with other characters, the raggedy disapproval comes off a bit to easily for her. I didn't see her in "mannequin-mode" in Alice in Wonderland, but I have definitely already seen a version of this character in the first season of In Treatment in which she figures prominently as one of Gabriel Byrne's patients.

I gave a little chuckle to myself in the theater at the realization that I have actually seen the pre-condom COLT classic that Bening and Moore are watching in the beginning of the movie. Best "guy-getting-fucked-in-the-back-of-a-pickup-truck" scene I've certainly ever encountered. Perfect choice ;)




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Postby Greg » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:34 am

An article I read about The Kids Are Alright, for whatever reason, makes an issue of the Benning and Moore characters watching gay male porn.
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Postby The Original BJ » Tue Jul 13, 2010 8:46 pm

Starting a new thread, because I think this one merits it...

I found The Kids Are All Right to be a very enjoyable movie, and a huge step up for Lisa Cholodenko. I must confess to not much liking High Art -- I thought it was a pretty generic romance/addiction movie that wouldn't have received half the attention it did had the lovers been of the opposite sex. The Kids Are All Right, though, is a film of far more specificity: remove the gay element (and specifically, the lesbian element) and there's no story. And yet, what's terrific about the movie is that it shows that this family unit experiences joys and struggles that are universal to all families. It is, in its own small way, a very important political statement -- this family is just as loving and just as screwed up as anyone's. And this timely message is wrapped in a poignant, funny, crowd-pleasing bow.

The film very quickly sets its story into motion, as Mia Wasikowska (showing some real intelligence and energy now that she's been freed from her role as Tim Burton's wax figurine) sets up a meeting with her biological father. The film almost immediately establishes a series of relationships that I found very compelling. How should Mark Ruffalo's character be introduced into this family? How should the mothers who have spent years building a family react to this new presence in their lives? And what if the long-lost father isn't everything the kids dreamed of? The films raises all of these interesting questions throughout the film's first portion, and the narrative is buoyed along by witty dialogue and a lot of laughs. (Though there is one sequence involving Moms and their son that was a little too sitcom-ish for the rest of the film.)

The film deepens in the second hour, as things become upended for this family. In Ruffalo's character, we see the regret of a man who has goofed off for a lot of his life and now sees what he has been missing; the trouble is, he learns the hard way that families have to be earned, they can't just be granted. The Moore-Bening relationship is tested in ways that serve as a painful reminder of how difficult it can sometimes be to keep a family together, day after day, year after year, while (to paraphrase Julianne Moore) wading through someone else's shit. And the film honestly reflects the tensions that develop between parents and their kids as collegiate independence waits just around the corner.

The final sequence is lovely. I can't imagine any parent who has sent their kid off to college (or any child who has left a family behind) not finding this sequence incredibly touching. And the last shot is also perfect in its hopeful ambiguity -- the kids will definitely be all right, but we get the sense that, whatever trials they've endured, the adults will be too.

The cast is uniformly strong, and the family dynamic feels completely real and lived-in. (And Ruffalo appropriately feels like a real outsider.) This marks a bit of a change of pace role for Julianne Moore -- we aren't used to seeing her excel as a comedian -- but she's got the funny role and her timing is aces. (And then, just in case we need reminding that she's one of the best criers in the movies, she gets a nice eleventh-hour meltdown.) But I might like Annette Bening here even more. I think her character has more of an arc, and she takes an OCD role similar to that of Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty, but grounds her in a reality more appropriate to this film. And Ruffalo is great too, as a guy who clearly never planned to be a dad suddenly trying on the role for size.

Also, I don't normally usually notice these things in contemporary-set movies, but the costumes were really exceptionally well-chosen, I thought. Some real character-specific outfits for the adults and kids. I kept thinking -- yeah, s/he totally WOULD wear that.

Will this film's big-city success continue as it expands? I have no idea. But anyone in search of a story about real people on this summer's movie screens should head to this movie pronto.


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