Over the last week or so The Queen and I have been making up for lost movie time. With the arrival of our Little Princess last summer, movie nights have literally become a thing of the past; at least at the theatre. However, we have been catching up on films via Rogers On Demand (a Video On Demand service for the non-Canadians reading). So far, we’ve watched Easy A (Emma Stone has a great career already, and she’s only going to get better); Dinner For Schmucks, (a complete waste of time, though Scotty G would argue differently); and The Town (a great crime thriller that recalled the brilliance of Heat.
This past Saturday, we hit two more movies, one on demand and the other which we’d had sitting on Blu-Ray for over two years but had never gotten around to watching. And while you may think that The Kids Are All Right and The X-Files: I Want To Believe have little in common, watching them so close together got, I did find they had one common theme.
Since I’m almost positive you didn’t see The X-Files when it hit theaters in 2008 (a colossal failure the summer of The Dark Knight), here’s a quick rundown. Mulder and Scully, no longer FBI agents, are called in to help with to help investigate the disappearance of a fellow agent. The supernatural catch – the FBI’s main source is a former Catholic priest and convicted pedophile who claims to receive psychic visions of clues. At the same time, Scully, a practicing surgeon, is questioning her faith as she is set to perform a risky operation on a young patient. A very quick synopsis, I know. Allow me to add that The X-Files: I Want To Believe is, while not particularly good, is nowhere near as bad as so many critics and its poor showing at the box office would have you believe. It’s low-key and not reliant on big special effects or CGI to tell its story; the best scenery, the constant snowfall, is gorgeous. It does get a little crazy towards the end and would have been better served catering to the fan base by delving into the series’ alien mythology, but David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, one of pop cultures great duos, are still fun to watch together.
WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Speaking of duos, in The Kids Are All Right, Julianne Moore and Annette Bening are dynamic as the lesbian couple with two kids who ask to meet their sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) who soon becomes immersed in all their lives. You may have heard that Bening won a Golden Globe for her role as Nic and it was well deserved, though all the performance are great. In fact, Moore and Benning’s relationship is one of the most true to life couples I’ve seen in film in a very long time. The sense of love and frustration the two share is perfectly delivered, and you don’t have to be gay to relate and appreciate their dynamic. However, I did take issue with the story and how Ruffalo’s character is vilified by the end of the film for entering into the lives of Jules, Nic et all, which brings me to what I thought was similar between The Kids Are All Right and The X-Files: a focus on morality.
The Kids Are All Right draws a very firm moral line between who is right and who is wrong in it’s central conflict, which I felt was a bit of a cop-out. The fact that the family unit wins out in the end is one thing; but making the straight male who donated sperm into the villain when the family life falls apart seemed a little too convenient to me and not really in keeping with the rest of the film. It takes two to tango, and one character’s transgression seems to be more forgivable for some unexplained reason.
Meanwhile, in The X-Files, morality and choice is really the main sub-plot to the entire film. You have the convicted pedophile looking for forgiveness and absolution; Mulder, who as always is willing to believe in what he can’t see; and Scully, who is trying to make moral and right decisions for herself, her partner and her patient. In the world of The X-Files the characters (and the viewers) are asked how much they’re willing to believe and how much one is willing to forgive. Pretty heady stuff for a mainstream film released during summer blockbuster time.
At the end of the day, I don’t know if I’d recommend either film wholeheartedly. While The Kids Are All Right is full of stellar performances, I was really left unfulfilled by the ending. The X-Files: I Want To Believe was a failed attempt to relaunch the franchise, but is still a decent thriller with the return of two great pop icons.
I want to believe they could do better, and maybe they will again.