Moore and Ruffalo are all right, too

Posted by · 6:33 am · July 6th, 2010

Even in the most evenly matched and mutually dependent of ensembles, it seems, some will always be deemed more equal than others. So it is with this summer’s great white indie hope, “The Kids Are All Right.” Since the film bowed at Sundance in January, all its players have been warmly received by critics — but it was Annette Bening, as the more authoritative half of a middle-aged lesbian couple, who initially emerged as the consensus standout and likely awards player.

That’s understandable in many respects. It’s a fine performance, and arguably the film’s most surprising: Bening can be a divisively mannered actor, but this is the loosest and most spontaneous she’s yet let allowed herself to be on screen. It doesn’t hurt that, between the film’s adult characters, hers perhaps tests audience sympathies the least.

But in what is plainly a two-lead film at the very least — for my money, there’s a convincing case to be made for Mark Ruffalo’s intruding third parent as a leading player — people shouldn’t be so hasty to hand out best-in-show ribbons.

Regular readers may remember that Kris and I both go against the grain in this respect. Kris has already declared Ruffalo’s smartly phlegmatic turn as the standout performance of 2010 thus far. I, meanwhile, went to bat for Julianne Moore in my February review of the film: putting a hippier spin on her characteristic nerviness, even dipping successfully into goofy comedy, it’s her liveliest performance since her 2002 career peak and, with Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone,” my favorite from an American actress this year.

Which is why, with the film finally hitting U.S. screens on Friday, I’m glad to see Ruffalo and Moore getting their fair share of publicity, including this rather sweet joint profile in USA Today. Having become firm friends on the set of “Blindness” a few years ago (hey, at least some good came out of it), the two have a gentle, genial rapport that obviously accounts for their easy screen chemistry. (The subject of their sex scenes yields this choice quote from Ruffalo: “People are like, ‘How does Julianne Moore look naked?’ I don’t know. She was pressed up against me the whole time.”)

Moore, it turns out, was the first actor attached to the project and helped bring Ruffalo (who initially had to pass due to a scheduling conflicts) on board. That said, they appear to share an equal emotional investment in the project; I particularly like their spot-on takes on their respective characters:

Moore says she liked Jules’ “uncertainty the most. She knows she’s in-between and in a transitional place, and she’s really sensitive to suggestion. I love how quickly she flies off the handle with her girlfriend, out of her own insecurity. She’s looking for some kind of validation.”

“I like that he seemingly has everything that every young American male wishes he had, but he crashes and burns and it doesn’t add up to much in the end,” Ruffalo says. “My wife and I knew a famous bachelor in Hollywood. At 75 years old, he still had the 20-year-old models running around and the beautiful art and the house in the hills and a lime-green Mercedes. And on his deathbed, one of the last things he said was, ‘I just wish I had a family to share this with.’ “

You can read the rest here. Ruffalo, meanwhile, is doing pretty nicely, having scored his own individual profile in the New York Times a few days ago. It’s a fun read that doesn’t shed light on the actor or his work so much as remind us that he’s a terrifically nice guy — but if he’s going to hit the campaign trail in a few months’ time (and it’s hard to imagine that he won’t), that certainly bears repeating.

Meanwhile, thanks to regular reader James for alerting me to the news that Ruffalo has signed on to star in another project with a high level of gay interest — the long-considered screen adaptation of “The Normal Heart,” Larry Kramer’s acclaimed play about the HIV-AIDS crisis in 1980s New York. If “The Kids Are All Right” doesn’t bring the guy some overdue awards love, at least there’s a plan B.

→ 27 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

27 responses so far

  • 1 7-06-2010 at 7:10 am

    The Other James D. said...

    Ah, magnificent. I shoulda known you had something bigger planned with the scoop!

    Great way to interweave all these tidbits together. (Wow, I even saw it in theaters, and completely forgot they worked together previously.)

    I hope that voters are of the same mutual mindset as us, and feel inclined to spread the love to Bening *and* her co-stars. At the moment, I predict all three get nominated. (Initially, I had Wasikowska down, but I think she’ll just be a breakthrough victor @ critics’ awards this season.)

    And as for The Normal Heart, w/ Kramer himself writing the screenplay, this sounds like a very promising project and I suspect it won’t hold back either, fortunately. And to think, I never even knew about it until I came across this while on Towelroad for…the typical reasons.

  • 2 7-06-2010 at 7:12 am

    cca said...

    It would be great to have Bening and Moore both nominated for best leading actress… The last time two actors where nominated in the same leading category was Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for “Thelma & Louise”, in 1991!!!

    (If that film would open today, I’m sure the studio would try to campaign Davis as supporting!!!)

  • 3 7-06-2010 at 7:35 am

    JJ said...

    Gosh, I understand that it’s great to be nominated – but all these, they should BOTH be nommed Lead – hello, that means only one will win, and very possibly NOT with vote-splitting.

    I hope to God they’re both not nommed in the same category. Can’t Mother & Child or Chloe factor in in some way to prevent this? haha

  • 4 7-06-2010 at 7:35 am

    m1 said...

    Why isn’t Moore in the Supp. Actress predictions?

    I think that Ruffalo will easily get in. Comedy is hard to do and he could easily take the NBR win.

  • 5 7-06-2010 at 7:42 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    m1: Because, as far as Kris has been informed, Moore will be campaigned in lead, where she belongs.

    JJ: Too many people assume that dual lead nominations automatically cancel each other out. F. Murray Abraham, Shirley MacLaine and Maximilian Schell, to name three, could tell you otherwise.

  • 6 7-06-2010 at 7:49 am

    The Other James D. said...

    Logically, if one supporting nominee could win over their fellow co-star, then it’s just as plausible that someday again soon, one leading nominee could triumph over their co-lead. Zeta-Jones is the last to pull it off, but who knows? Maybe this year it could be Bening vs. Moore or Farrell vs. Harris.

    That being said, this throws a wrench into my current predictions. Even if it’s Gyllenhaalian category fraud at its finest, I hope Moore does decide to switch later on this year if supporting appears to be as weak as it is now.

  • 7 7-06-2010 at 8:39 am

    sosgemini said...

    Off topic but: I’ve just noticed not a single minority appears to be part of the “early buzz” thus far. I hope this isn’t the year that ends the progress made my non-white actors during award season. I’d love to hear what our pundits here think of the supposed “black voting block” that appears to have successfully secured at least one acting nom over the past decade.

  • 8 7-06-2010 at 9:34 am

    The Other James D. said...

    It’s funny you mention that, because that’s exactly what feels so peculiar about the predictions that I’ve seen here, elsewhere, and from myself.

    I’ve been keeping my eye on Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie, depending on whether or not his projects go anywhere. (Bolden! could be just another Idlewild, so that’s not likely.) They star in Night Catches Us, and I think, is something to keep an eye on. It received some praise at Sundance, and Washington and Mackie received much praise for their performances.

    After his awful THL snub last season, there’s a chance that all could be amended this year. And Washington’s been looming for a while now, so maybe this is her time. We shall see.

    I read that it’s supposed to be released in the fall at some point by Magnolia Pictures, so there’s potential there.

    And if that’s too indie, there’s always Hiam Abbass for Miral, which seems like a terrific (BIOPIC!) role for the underrated actress. I’m just not sure if she’s lead or supporting, depending on the perspective of the film.

  • 9 7-06-2010 at 11:29 am

    /3rtfu11 said...

    I want Bening to take home the statuette. She’s been beaten by a Whoopi and two Swank(s).

  • 10 7-06-2010 at 11:31 am

    The Other James D. said...

    A Whoopi and 2 Swanks….That either sounds like a great band name or a new cocktail to get drunk at the Golden Globes with.

  • 11 7-06-2010 at 12:51 pm

    andrea said...

    Once again The Kids Are All Right can’t be mentioned here on Incontention without the need of Kris and Guy to try to diminish Bening to prop up Moore and Ruffalo.

    How incredibly odd and disappointing.

    All 3 are great. All 3 were singled out as being great. Some praised Bening more, some others and admittingly less praised Moore. Why you feel the need to rage this campaign to diminish Bening to praise Moore is an embarassment to your credentials as a critics. They both supported each other’s performances to a tee and their chemistry helped make the film as goodl as it was.

    And it’s a long ways away to award season. The only shot Moore has at getting in is supporting and the only chance Bening has to win is to not have Moore splitting the vote and the studio will soon realize that later this year.

    And BTW Tatum O’Neal and Timothy Hutton say hello. Spare me this faux outrage over campaign placement integrity.

  • 12 7-06-2010 at 12:54 pm

    andrea said...

    And judging by your own predictions supporting actress is laughably weak right now. (Keira Knightley?!?!?!).

    You have a 2 time winner in there wth 3 total unknowns and a polarizing actress who is going to be snubbed anyways.

    A perfect category for Moore to be in this year.

  • 13 7-06-2010 at 1:08 pm

    m1 said...

    5-If that’s true, then Hilary Swank is out. I guess my dream of both Moore and Bening winning is done with.

    12-I could easily see either Michelle Monaghan, Carey Mulligan, or even Naomi Watts sneaking in at this point. Not to mention the ‘Nowhere Boy’ actresses.

  • 14 7-06-2010 at 1:11 pm

    m1 said...

    There are many movies which-for the first time since Mystic River-could take home more than one acting award.

    Love and Other Drugs
    The Kids are All Right
    Mother and Child
    Blue Valentine
    The Fighter
    The Tree of Life

  • 15 7-06-2010 at 1:20 pm

    andrea said...

    What are you talking about M1?

    How is Carey Mulligan going to get into supporting this year? Certainly not for Never Let Me go or Wall Street 2.

    And Naomi Watts is lead for Fair Game and is top billed for Mother and Child.

    And sorry but in the good will department Julianne Moore has earned up more than Michelle Monaghan.

    If Moore gets into supporting she will win. I am positive of it unless there’s a sure fire winning performance out there.

  • 16 7-06-2010 at 1:33 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    Carey Mulligan?! LOL. She’s lead in Never Let Me Go and it’s hilarious that anyone would think she’ll sneak in for that sh!t sequel. Andrea speaks sense–on that much.

    And BTW Tatum O’Neal and Timothy Hutton say hello. Spare me this faux outrage over campaign placement integrity.

    Totally agree with this. If the performance is strong and the person worthy, who cares about the placement? Just let them have their due.

    Michelle Monaghan? For…Somewhere? Over Elle Fanning? Does she even have a character?

    Love and Other Drugs gives me the vibes of a hot mess in the making. I sense there’s some pro-Zwickness around here, but oh well, I’m sticking to my guns. Hathaway at most, maybe.

    Mother and Child won’t make it to the Oscars.

    But I disagree that Moore has it sewn up this early. She would appear to be the strongest if she’s in supporting, but from my predix, I can see Melissa Leo’s Mama Eklund/Ward/whatever being a potential fave. Can’t wait to find out!

  • 17 7-06-2010 at 1:39 pm

    andrea said...

    Yeah I think possible Melissa Leo and Amy Adams seem to have the pedigree as prior nominees in a promising movie that could potentially challenge Moore.

    And I dont think Moore has anything sewed up right now. I still think Moore’s biggest obstacle will be having the studio have the smarts enough to campaign her in supporting and than having enough voters nominate her there.

  • 18 7-06-2010 at 3:08 pm

    m1 said...

    15-The point I’m trying to make about Michelle Monaghan is that she is a great actress and-like McAdams and Blunt-deserving for a nomination soon.

  • 19 7-07-2010 at 3:29 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Andrea: Even when you raise reasonable points, you continue to be a needlessly aggressive and disagreeable commenter. Drop the attitude and just converse.

    Nobody here is “raging” (except you, it seems), or “diminishing” Bening, whose performance I praise in this very piece. I’m sorry we have opinions, but it can’t be helped.

  • 20 7-07-2010 at 4:26 am

    m1 said...

    6-Uh, Maggie Gyllenhaal was DEFINITELY supporting last year for Crazy Heart.

  • 21 7-07-2010 at 4:41 am

    The Other James D. said...

    @m1: Uh, what makes you assume I was referring to Maggie’s who-cares nod?

    The “Gyllenhaalian category fraud” was in reference to the much more significant Brokeback Mountain. There was much debate amongst the Oscar community about whether it was “just” that Jake should go supporting so that both he and Heath could get nominated, because many griped on about “Oh, two gay characters can’t both be lead”, yadda yadda yadda. It leads me back to my beliefs that as long as they get the nomination they deserve, I don’t care what category it’s in.

    Awards these days would benefit much more from having a three-tiered acting category placement.

  • 22 7-08-2010 at 10:17 am

    Adam K. said...

    Three-tiered?? What would be the tiers? Lead, supporting, and “flexible”?

    Never gonna happen.

  • 23 7-08-2010 at 10:18 am

    Adam K. said...

    Maybe lead, supporting, and “we’d just like to give these people oscars even though their perfs aren’t great enough to be nominated in lead, but aren’t small enough to be nominated in supporting”.

  • 24 7-08-2010 at 11:30 am

    The Other James D. said...

    Haha. It allows for various types, such as “ensemble leads” (those with the major roles, such as Kikuchi/Barraza/Pitt in Babel); performances likes the ’06 ones of Whitaker and Streep; and so forth. Primary/Secondary/Tertiary. There’s be less stressing over 2 people campaigning in lead, or who’s committing category fraud.

    I’m sure Captain Awesome would agree with me that this would be “muy awesome”.

  • 25 7-08-2010 at 12:29 pm

    JJ said...

    Can anyone decipher if Bening has enough/more screentime than Moore and if a supporting campaign for Moore would be at all acceptable/permissable/relevent?

  • 26 7-08-2010 at 12:29 pm

    JJ said...

    I mean, Winslet got away with it for nearly the entire 08 season ’til the Oscar noms came out, haha.

  • 27 7-10-2010 at 5:10 pm

    Mike said...

    @M1 Million Dollar Baby won Best Actress and Supporting Actor in ’04