Greta Christina writing at Carnalnation:
There's a complaint I'm beginning to see about this movie, especially from queers. (And this is where the spoiler I've been alluding to comes in. Spoiler alert—now!) The major plot turn in The Kids Are All Right happens when Jules starts doing some landscaping work for Paul, and they wind up having an affair. With disastrous effects: not only on Nic and Jules' marriage, but on the kids' blossoming relationship with their sperm donor/dad. This turn of events has some queer viewers angry, or at least annoyed: they're complaining that historically, way too many movies about lesbians end up with one of them sleeping with a man (and in many cases, being "cured" thereby). And they're baffled as to why this movie—directed and co-written by a lesbian and so clearly created from a lesbian perspective—would perpetuate this tired old stereotype.
Sorry, but I'm not buying it. I'm usually happy to join a Celluloid Closet dogpile and rant at a movie for perpetuating stereotypes about queers. But in this case, I think it's wildly inappropriate. For one thing, Jules sleeping with Paul isn't portrayed as the lesbian being "cured" of her lesbianism. Not even a little. It's portrayed as a freaking tragedy that comes close to demolishing a family.... The creators of this film aren't obligated to single-handedly correct every dumb stereotype about lesbians in the history of film. They're obligated to present lesbians as real, plausible, multi-faceted human beings. Which is exactly what they did. There are a lot of things you can say about Jules sleeping with Paul: it was stupid, it was heartbreaking, it was understandable, it was fucked-up beyond belief. But it was also—and most importantly—entirely believable. There was no part of me that thought, "There's no way she would do that." In fact, I saw it coming a mile away.
I'm one of those queer viewers who was annoyed by the Jules/Paul affair but not for the reasons Christina lays out. (My take is here.) I also found the affair to be completely believable and saw it coming a mile away. (Thanks mostly to, um, Moore and Ruffalo locking lips in the preview and the ads—kind of a giveaway there.) And while I wish the movie had gone in a different direction, I don't feel that way because I want to see lesbians protected from the all-you-need-is-a-man charge. I wish it went in a different direction because the affair seemed too easy, too pat, and—knowing as many lesbians as I do—too obvious.
And in defense of the film's creators and its politics: Jules never contemplates leaving Nic; she continues to identify as a lesbian during the affair; she tells her male lover she's a lesbian and not even he questions her sexual identity. So the film's dramatic crisis isn't that Jules may not now be a lesbian—or never was—but that Jules cheated on her spouse with, oh, just the most inappropriate and threatening person on the planet. But, again, there's never any doubt about Jules' sexuality: she's a lesbian.
That's a pretty sophisticated, honest, and ballsy (sorry!) portrait of lesbian sexuality and identity.