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The Performance: Julianne Moore

The actress plays one half of a lesbian couple but didn't have to go far for inspiration for the role.

July 08, 2010|By Michael Ordoña, Special to the Los Angeles Times

"The Kids Are All Right" took a long time to gestate, but the delivery was smooth. The comedy, which opens Friday, takes the long view of family, as Julianne Moore, who stars as one half of a lesbian couple, attests.

"I love the scene when we talk about how they first met, in the hospital," the actress says. "It ends with me saying, 'You were really funny' and her saying, 'You were really pretty.' You see that, right away, there was this thing between them, and at the bottom of it all, it's still there.

"The movie's got such a wonderful view of long-term relationships and families, but it also has a tremendous amount of life and comedy in it, which I think is what life is."

Moore plays Jules, who, along with wife Nic ( Annette Bening), has raised two children, the older of whom is leaving for college. Their picture of Angeleno domestic bliss is blurred when the curious offspring contact their mothers' previously anonymous sperm donor, Paul ( Mark Ruffalo). Moore says Ruffalo likewise altered the set's dynamic with the arrival of his hip, groovy, never-quite-grew-up character.

That presence was "über-male. I loved that because there was this real female energy, and Mark comes in and he's all hairy and beardy and the jacket and the motorcycle, all this kind of male stuff that comes through; it's really fun. It's something alien to Jules, to have something so outside her appreciate her."

Moore's Jules manages to be fragile, strong and appealingly open all at the same time.

"I love her because she feels first and thinks second," Moore says. "She's the kind of person, you think, 'I like her!' She comes toward you. That's her great strength. It may not be a strength that's valued in the [outside] world, but clearly, Nic's in love with her and Paul has a thing for her. She connects."

To craft the character, Moore didn't have to look far. Although director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko has compared herself to Bening's rather hard-charging, Type-A Nic character, Moore describes the director as "a very sensitive soul … very open to feeling what other people are feeling.

"It was really funny," Moore says, then in recalling an exchange with Cholodenko, she mimics her director's halting, ultra-laid-back speaking manner. "'It's interesting, what you're doing with Jules, with that kind of … uh … California, like surfer, like lesbian, like voice that you're doing.'

"I'm like [in the same voice], 'Really? Is it? Because it's yours.'"

The two met several years ago at a "women-in-film kind of luncheon, and I told her how much I loved her work."

Cholodenko eventually presented the actress with an early draft of "Kids," but the usual indie troubles — and life itself (the director and her partner had a baby) — kept the production on hold for years. When it was finally ready to go, the filmmakers relied on their star's connections.

"Lisa was like, 'I really want Annette to do this,' so I got her e-mail address and wrote her a note saying, 'Please take a look,'" Moore says. "Mark and I have been friends for a really long time. We were holding hands, basically, for five months during ' Blindness.' I'm really good friends with his wife, Sunrise. He had passed [on 'Kids'] because he had been working so much and didn't want to be away from his family. So Sunrise and I were texting about something else, and she was like, 'Whatever happened to that movie?' 'Mark passed, didn't you know?' 'What? I really liked that movie!' 'Tell him! He said he couldn't work because …' 'That's ridiculous!' So she was the one, really.

"But independent films are like that — they're tricky. You have to enlist people, and there's timing and financing and all that. I'm just so happy it's finally coming out."

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