Lisa Cholodenko is an American screenwriter and director who is probably best known for the 2010 film The Kids Are All Right. This film was nominated for four Academy Awards including best picture and stars Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo. The film is about a lesbian couple that each had a child with the same sperm donor. The kids bring the man into their family lives and the film centers on what happens as this man becomes a part of their family. When thinking of the auteur theory and its use in film Humm says it is explained as “the self-expressive signatures of Hollywood directors rather than a collection of the ideas to which these signatures were signed.”(Page 96). Cholodenko’s auteur approach to filming is more of a hands off system. In an interview, Mark Ruffalo explains what it was like working with Cholodenko when he said “Lisa is a rare director that knows actors, by the time you've finished your first week of shooting, probably know the characters better than the writer or the director. She creates a safe environment, and she casts well. She knows what to bring out of people.” Cholodenko says herself that “you have to be a very specific person to establish your career as an auteur.” She also says it can be hard as an auteur to find the people who can work with you and still keep your idea intact. It’s about finding the right funding and the right cast and crew.
One aspect that is definitely important to Cholodenko’s approach to filming is casting. She explains in an interview that casting was the toughest part of making this film because she was “painstaking about casting. I thought, if this isn't spot on, it isn't going to work.” Cholodenko wanted people who looked and felt real in their parts, not fake. The fact that this worked perfectly is easily seen in the film. Each character fits perfectly into their role and you truly believe you are getting a look into real lives.
Another thing to point out is that a movie like this normally doesn’t generate such good praise. When you hear that there is a movie out about a gay couple and their sperm donor you realize pretty quickly that this could be a very controversial subject. For me, the thing about this movie is that within minutes you find yourself forgetting about the fact that this is an unconventional family and begin to see that the same relationship issues exist across all families. In the Maggie Humm reading, funny enough, she actually mentions lesbianism and its use in films. Humm talks about lesbian continuum and how it is “the exploration of lesbian history and culture in which every woman can engage.” (Page 93). In The Kids Are All Right lesbian continuum is definitely seen because of how easily you can relate to these women.
It is important to point out just how long it took Cholodenko to make this movie. It took over five years with many rewrites and issues with funding. Cholodenko chose to go the independent route so she could have more artistic freedom. Most critics were very happy with the film but of course with any controversial subject you will always get the people who are unhappy. Cholodenko herself co-wrote this movie and is herself in a lesbian relationship and had a child through a sperm donor.
When thinking about this movie A.O. Scott says it best in a review when he says The Kids Are All Right “is outrageously funny without ever exaggerating for comic effect, and heartbreaking with only minimal melodramatic embellishment.” The main thing when it comes to Cholodenko as an auteur is the reality in this film. This seems like a real family and something that could happen anywhere. Bell Hooks says, “most audiences choose to give themselves over, if only for a time, to the images depicted and the imaginations that have created those images.” (Page 3). When you give yourself over to a movie like The Kids Are All Right the result is allowing yourself into the lives of an atypical American family and the issues they face.