Lisa Cholodenko directed the indie hit Laurel Canyon and a lot has changed. Despite the fact that Cholodenko, the out director and co-writer of the Sundance hit The Kids Are All Right, took time off to have a child with her girlfriend via artificial insemination, and even looks similar in hairstyle and glasses to Annette Bening in the film, she stresses that it is not autobiographical.
“Only as much as anyone else who’s been in a long term relationship and has a kid,” she remarked. “The idea of the film came about in doing all this research and thinking about sperm donors. You know, what that means and what that’s going to be like for my kid when he turns eighteen. He’s potentially going to reach out and find this person.”
“It feels mostly really positive and really appreciative and validating,” Cholodenko said, when asked how the GLBT community has taken to the film. “You know, there’s always people who are on the left of things and the right of things, and some people are kind of old school and say “Oh, why does she (Julianne Moore) go off with Mark Ruffalo.” And I just come back with, “If you want to see it a different way, I’ll come see your movie.”
“If anything, we did not want to be overtly political, and we thought it would be subversive to do it that way. This family is not on the far left, there aren’t rainbow flags, they weren’t ostracized. They were just like any other family in that socio-economic strata that are trying to raise kids with values.”
She and co-writer Stuart Blumberg (Keeping the Faith) thought, “Let’s put this family out there and not fetishize and not get all fussy that it’s a two mom family, and just really focus on the humanity in this and focus on the complications and humor in the dynamics of the relationship and find what’s universal here. That’s what’s going to be appealing and subversive about it.”
Another subversive element was the way Nic and Jules use 70’s gay male porn in their lovemaking, leading to a hilarious set of reveals. “It shows that sexuality is counterintuitive,” Cholodenko quipped. “Sometimes you just don’t know what’s going to do it (for people).”
Cholodenko loved working with Blumberg, who brought not only a more commercial eye to the project, but also the personal insight of having been a sperm donor himself. He echoed his character Paul’s explanation of why he did it: “It seemed a lot easier than giving blood.” He also felt good about helping people. He admitted that none of his possible donor offspring have looked him up … yet.
Blumberg worked to infuse humor into the film, but shared Cholodenko’s goal that it not be cheap. “Everything we did came from “What really happens? What feels real? Some of my favorite stuff to write was the literal description of (Nic) sitting down (after discovering Jules’ possible infidelity) and the blood rushes away and everything goes silent and you’re just trapped in this world where everyone is laughing and you just feel so alienated.”
on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.