Ruffalo is back with ‘Kids’

Posted by · 9:26 am · June 23rd, 2010

Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids Are All Right” opened the Los Angeles Film Festival last Thursday night, right across 11th Street from the Staples Center downtown as the Lakers triumphed in Game 7 of the NBA playoffs.  No, they weren’t rioting on Figueroa because the movie’s good, but it IS a solid piece.

I spoke briefly about it in the 6/11 edition of Oscar Talk, but on the occasion of its recent festival showcase, I wanted to again address what I think is the film’s key ingredient: Mark Ruffalo.

For me, “The Kids Are All Right” is a return on the investment anyone put into Ruffalo 10 years ago when he first made waves in Ken Lonergan’s “You Can Count on Me.” After the actor frankly seemed incapable of tapping back into that essence for the better part of the decade, his work here makes good on the promise his charisma and raw talent made back in 2000.  Aside from Tahar Rahim’s inarguable work in Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet,” Ruffalo’s is the most refined, natural performance I’ve seen all year.

He lives in the character like it were a tattered and trusty flannel, having fun but carving out depth in the role that shows up in the actor’s impeccable rhythm and physical presence.  He stands toe-to-toe with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore and kind of puts on a clinic, small but big, understated but captivating, the most organic element of the film’s cast.  He even makes it out unscathed as the film turns what I thought to be an uncharacteristically judgmental eye toward him in the third act.

The guy deserves his first nomination for what he put into the mixture here and I can only hope that Academy voters feel the same way.  To me, this is just the kind of work actors should appreciate and even emulate.

Elsewhere, I think we’re likely to see a nomination for original screenplay, perhaps even Best Picture.  This looks to be one of Focus Features’ big plays in the season.  The thinking is Bening’s butch portrayal (with all the good lines) has an inside track for a lead actress nomination, and I’m sure she’ll get there, but I was more impressed with what Moore did, with less.  Still, if there’s one reason to see the film, it’s Ruffalo.  I can’t remember the last time I so fully believed a portrayal.

→ 39 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

39 responses so far

  • 1 6-23-2010 at 9:40 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    I thought he was pretty cool in Collateral albeit not a very demanding role. He is a good actor but has not been the best at choosing roles. Maybe he works too much, if there is such a thing for an actor.

  • 2 6-23-2010 at 9:50 am

    James D. said...

    Hooray for Ruffalo. He may have even been better than Linney back in 2000. Although, I would argue he had a good turn in Zodiac, so he hasn’t been completely gone from the quality spectrum.

  • 3 6-23-2010 at 9:52 am

    tony rock said...

    Kris, I think you’re selling Ruffalo’s recent years rather short. Sure, he hasn’t exactly turned in Oscar-caliber performances, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t delivered consistently solid work in films like Zodiac, Collateral, and Eternal Sunshine.

  • 4 6-23-2010 at 9:57 am

    Michael W. said...

    When first reading Shutter Island I thought he was absolutely perfectly cast and he would be a sure contender when the film was done, but then it was moved to the spring of this year and will probably be forgotten by the time of award season, so I really hope The Kids Are All Right can book him a ticket to the Kodak.

    Overall I have loved a lot of his work in the last 10 years. He was also great in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Reservation Road, even though that one didn’t really pick up any steam.

  • 5 6-23-2010 at 10:03 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    It’s not that I think Ruffalo hasn’t given quality performances, they just haven’t had that “thing” that I’ve been waiting to see again.

  • 6 6-23-2010 at 11:21 am

    Me. said...

    When I saw the trailer for this at the movies, I thought it looked awful. Now, I come to this site and find out it’s an Oscar favorite?

  • 7 6-23-2010 at 1:32 pm

    andrea said...

    Why did you take Moore out of your supporting actress predictions if she was so good?? I cant imagine they are stupid enough to put them both in Lead Actress which would surely result in a vote split.

  • 8 6-23-2010 at 1:52 pm

    Patryk said...

    Ruffalo is such a fine, selfless actor. I think he was the best thing in “Shutter Island,” which, for me, was a fun, jolting ride. So happy to hear this about his upcoming role in “The Kids Are All Right.” Hope he steals it from his more Oscar-conventional co-stars.

  • 9 6-23-2010 at 2:33 pm

    andrea said...

    Go f*ck yourself.

    This is the problem with so many gays on these blogs.

    You HATE women.

    “I hope he steals it from his more Oscar conventional co stars”


    Yeah I hope he upstages those b*tches. Because lord knows women in Hollywood, especially mature women, have so many GREAT opportunities.

    Lets just shove Annette and Julianne and every other woman in this business into the gas chambers like we did with the Jews.

    Again, GO F*CK yourself. Instead of trying to enjoy the movies lets pit the actors against each other. FOR WHAT F*CKING REASON?!?! THEY ARE IN THE SAME GOD DAMN MOVIE.

    “He’s such a fine selfless actor…” did you say that as you were masturbating to a picture of him?? Are you suggesting his co stars arent??

    You make me sick. I HATE posters like you because you have no reason to be pitting these people against each other.

  • 10 6-23-2010 at 2:42 pm

    MovieMan said...

    I think Andrea is a really happy, positive person.

  • 11 6-23-2010 at 2:47 pm

    andrea said...

    I’d rather be truthful than happy.

    What point is there to make a comment like that? I hope so and so steals the movie from their costars.

    How about go see the f’ing movie and see if you like it and the performances.

  • 12 6-23-2010 at 3:15 pm

    PJ said...

    I thought he was quite good in “Zodiac”, but you’re right, Kris; he was quite something in “You Can Count on Me”, which makes me pretty excited for this.

  • 13 6-23-2010 at 4:10 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Why am I picturing Kathy Bates from Misery typing on a laptop when I read posts from Andrea?

  • 14 6-23-2010 at 4:15 pm

    andrea said...

    I am more like the girl from Orphan if you wanna go the visualization route.

  • 15 6-23-2010 at 5:24 pm

    Dean Treadway said...

    While vociferous, I sort of like Andrea’s comment. Why hope someone steals a movie away from anyone? Why not hope they all work together to create a whole? After all, even though this is an Oscar site, it’s really not a competition. I’d like to see good work all around. However, I do have a strong hope that Ruffalo also gets noticed for the unique screen presence that was woefully ignored in 2000’s YOU CAN COUNT ON ME; if you’re a fan of that movie, you’ll understand. He’s been solid since, but not remarkable (ZODIAC came closest). Exciting to hear this is cut from the same cloth.

  • 16 6-23-2010 at 5:42 pm

    A said...

    LOL DEAD @ “so many gays on these blogs”

    I didn’t know incontention had trolls.

  • 17 6-23-2010 at 7:33 pm

    Silencio said...

    I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen from him, and that includes 13 Going On 30 and Just Like Heaven. Dude is due.

  • 18 6-23-2010 at 8:27 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    andrea: You’re leagues out of line with your comments, but as for Moore, I took her out because they will not be campaigning her for supporting. End of story. And most think Bening is the better of the two. Mine is a unique opinion.

    Debate here all you want. Be a bigot elsewhere.

  • 19 6-23-2010 at 9:00 pm

    Ryan Adams said...

    cheers, Kris.

    **This is the problem with so many gays on these blogs. You HATE women.**

    whoa, Andrea. The Hate Meter peaked in this discussion but I don’t think Patryk was the epicenter, sweetheart.

    ah yes, all of us famously woman-hating gays, disrespecting actresses from the time of Bette David, Joan Crawford, Lana Tuner, Liz Taylor all the way to the present day, shunning Sharon Stone, Julianne Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helen Mirren, Tina Fey — countless other females who make us cringe so much we’re practically transfixed by them.

    Don’t worry though, Andrea. Women are scary resilient and tough. Hard as we’ve tried, all of us gay woman-haters couldn’t destroy the careers of Grace Jones, Bette Midler, Cher, Kathy Griffin, Madonna, and Oprah.

    Don’t even get me started on the repulsive mother and daughter team who’ve infuriated us gays for two generations. Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli. ugh, they aggravate the gays so much we have thousands of gay agents working night and day in disguise to replace those two harridans with male doppelgangers.

    And let’s not forget the notorious gay woman-hater filmmakers: George Cukor, Todd Haynes, Bill Condon, Lee Daniels and Pedro Almodovar.

    You visit Awards Daily from time to time, Andrea. Maybe you’ve been to The Film Experience too? I’m sure you’ve noticed how Nathanial Rogers and I never miss an opportunity to denigrate women.

    c’mon, give us an air kiss, honey. (and psst, here’s a coupla Xanax. sorry, all I have left are pink ones.)


  • 20 6-23-2010 at 9:28 pm

    Ryan Adams said...

    “Bette David”

    (aha! oops,
    see how insidious we are?)

  • 21 6-24-2010 at 12:16 am

    Hans said...

    Haha! Point, Ryan.

    I’m glad they are campaigning her for lead. Studios don’t have the balls (nor, to appease Andrea, the ovaries) to campaign two same-sex actors for lead anymore (did they try for Frost/Nixon? I can’t remember). This seems like a weak year for acting in general anyway (and I mean quantity, I certainly anticipate quality), and, really, for films, too. The lack of any huge Nine/Invictus/Ben Button-like bait on the horizon really has me feeling clueless about this awards season.

  • 22 6-24-2010 at 10:33 am

    Joyce said...

    I’m excited to see Mark Ruffalo in this role. The way he carries out a character is always very natural but in an almost reserved manner, as he rarely plays any large, over-the-top roles. The charm he brings to any movie is truly his humility. In an interview I saw at, he talks about his newcomer director, Lisa Cholodenko, with great respect and praise. Watch it here:
    I hope you enjoy watching Mark discuss his insight on ‘The Kids Are All Right’!

  • 23 6-24-2010 at 10:39 am

    SoSueMe said...

    If you want to see underrated, underseen and very recent quality work from Mark, check out What Doesn’t Kill You. Unfortunately, the film had some distribution issues and it didn’t have a fair shot come awards time. I think it’s Mark’s best work.

  • 24 6-24-2010 at 10:46 am

    filmfan said...

    Ruffalo’s great and I’m happy he gets an opportunity with the right role to shine in, but don’t you contradict yourself a little bit after your Sundance review, saying that

    “Best of all, however, is Moore, released from a recent run of roles that have boxed her (however effectively) into nervy constructs of femininity. Here she’s genially, even goofily, vulnerable as a woman faintly aware that she has outgrown the hippy idealism of her youth, but hasn’t settled on a suitable persona with which to replace it. Moore has never been looser or funnier on screen – a hilariously spacy response to an accidental kiss is a priceless Oscar-clip moment – which only makes her sober emotional self-effacement all the more startling when it comes.”

    I loved that review, and I hope so much that Moore can return to Oscar (nomination) glory. She needs it desperately, because a career that had its peak because of her nomination magnetism in the late 90s / early aughts won’t be able to consist five years from now if nothing happens. You know, independent movies are very difficult to get made these days.

  • 25 6-24-2010 at 12:07 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    @Filmfan: No contradiction at all, since I wrote that review, while Kris wrote the piece above. (The review was from Berlin, not Sundance, by the way.)

    I maintain my opinion that Moore is the standout of the ensemble — though I fully second Kris’s praise for Ruffalo.

  • 26 6-24-2010 at 4:28 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    SoSueMe: Indeed, everyone was solid in What Doesn’t Kill You. Ruffalo especially.

  • 27 6-24-2010 at 6:04 pm

    Reno said...

    So will Moore be campaigned for Lead as well, ala Thelma & Louise ?

  • 28 6-24-2010 at 8:28 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...


  • 29 6-24-2010 at 10:51 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    So glad to hear that. Totally the right decision, tactics be damned.

  • 30 6-24-2010 at 11:31 pm

    andrea said...

    I highly doubt that decision has been made in June where she will be campaigned.

  • 31 6-24-2010 at 11:39 pm

    andrea said...

    Oh so glad to hear that. What BS.

    The Oscar race is a GAME and if they are really putting her in lead than they have screwed them both.

    She is every bit as supporting as Tatum O’Neal.

  • 32 6-25-2010 at 12:28 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    You’re really a delight, Andrea.

  • 33 6-25-2010 at 1:02 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    andrea: Doubt all you want, facts are facts. As of right now, the view from within is that it would be nonsensical to campaign her in supporting.

    And they haven’t “screwed them both.” Bening will be nominated. Most like her more.

  • 34 6-25-2010 at 4:01 am

    andrea said...

    Well you should give me your Focus Feature source’s contact info so I could set them straight like only I can!

    They are both screwed if this happens. If Moore gets nominated in lead WITH Bening they split the votes and both lose anyways, if Moore goes lead and fails to get nominated she get screwed too. Only safe way for both of them is to try supporting. Winslet almost totally got away with it and still won a supporting BFCA, Globe, and SAG.

  • 35 6-25-2010 at 4:43 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Well you should give me your Focus Feature source’s contact info so I could set them straight like only I can!”

    Yeah, we’ll get right on it. I imagine they’re dying to hear from you. Bottom line: it’s a two-lead (arguably even a three-lead) movie, so it’d be nice to see an honest campaign. And if one performance has more critical momentum than the other, the votes won’t necessarily split — see F. Murray Abraham, Shirley MacLaine, Maximilian Schell, etc.

  • 36 6-25-2010 at 6:54 am

    Jim T said...

    Isn’t it impossible for a movie to have two nominations in the same lead category? I mean, I remember a rule about it. If there will be a split, it will be during the nominations voting process.

    By the way I’m talking about facts. I’m not taking Andrea’s side. It’s a dark, dark side.

  • 37 6-25-2010 at 7:19 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    @Jim: No, there’s no rule against it. It hasn’t happened for some time (off the top of my head, I’d say not since Sarandon and Davis both got nominated for “Thelma and Louise”), but it’s entirely possible. (The closest we got in recent years was probably with “The Hours” in 2002, when Meryl Streep was almost certainly in the #6 slot for Best Actress.)

  • 38 6-25-2010 at 7:29 am

    Jim T said...

    Oh, OK. I don’t know why I remembered that incorrectly.

    off-topic: Screw the festival and go to the Swinton dance show! It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity ;) (or do both if you have time)

  • 39 6-25-2010 at 4:31 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Alas, I’m not in Edinburgh for the Swinton dance event.