The Annette Bening Retrospective: Four of the Finest

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The Annette Bening Retrospective, held at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills, showcased four of Annette Bening’s finest film performances over the past two decades beginning with her most recent Academy Award nominated role as Nicole Allgood in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT.

The talented Ms. Bening, a four-time Oscar nominee and winner of two Golden Globes, joined the retrospect after the screening, along with Warren Beatty, in a Q & A with BACKSTAGE MAGAZINES' National Film and TV Editor, Jenelle Riley.

In THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, Directed by Lisa Cholodenko,  Annette Bening and Julianne Moore portray a Lesbian couple with polar opposite personalities. The high achieving Type-A personality, Ms. Bening, a physician, and her lover, Ms. Moore, Jules Allgood, a free-spirited earthy organic emotional stay-at-home Mom who are faced, after twenty years of symbolic marriage, with a onslaught of mid-life crisis’s.

Ms. Bening gives a flawless performance as a middle aged high-achiever coming to terms with the progressions of life and a blitz of the bizarre. She attains the difficult balance of giving a full out performance while staying true to the character’s restrained emotional make-up.

The two settled into married life, into suburbia, with two children, a boy, Laser, and a girl, Joni, an idyllic poster family for Gay Rights. Laser, played by Josh Hutcherson, being driven by adolescent curiosity, decides to seek Joni’s, portrayed by Mia Wasikowska,  assistance in finding the sperm donor their “Moms” decided fit their specifications. A scene later and the two are meeting Paul Hatfield, played by Mark Ruffalo, a free-spirited, earthy, organic driven restaurateur.  

The dialogue between Ms. Moore and Ms. Bening could be the dynamics of any couple. The high achiever, husband, taking credit for “making your life possible” and the home manager, wife, struggling throughout their marriage to find her identity and now, when the children are essentially grown and almost leaving the home, describes herself with momentary pauses and stammers, unable to define herself or her contributions.

The sexual scenes between Ms. Moore and Ms. Bening are limited with the heterosexual sexual scenes dominating the screen time.  By the end of the film, the two struggle with the same emotions all couples deal with after betrayal; rage, loneliness, hatred, forgiveness.

If there is a flaw in the film it would be the director’s choice to include Gay Porn as an accessory to the alternative lifestyle and one is left wondering if the use of Gay Porn is a common tool for sexual arousal or simply gratuitous support of gay rights. It is repetitious and detracts from the eloquence of the well scripted storyline.

After the showing of THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, Ms. Bening commented on several topics throughout the thirty minute Q & A. Ms. Bening was polite, well spoken and generous with her time and responses. Below is an expert from their conversation.

On finding out about her OSCAR Nod:  I was woken up by a phone call from my agent.  It was a good thing that the phone rang.

On the film, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT: We had our Nominees Luncheon today and I was speaking with Lisa Cholodenko who directed the film. She and Stewart who wrote it together, they’re writing partners, they sat and toiled away for years and years and had a really hard time getting it financed. That was what needed to happen to make it what it is.  Seeing her there today, I got all choked up just looking at her. She’s been working in the business for many, many years and now she’s been recognized so, I was happy for all of us.

On the Theater: My husband and I just saw a production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, in New York with Al Pacino. I don’t know if anyone here as seen it. They did it over the summer [at The Delacorte Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park Series], and then opened it on Broadway.  It’s so great. That’s the one thing that the theater still has that nothing else has is that aliveness.  

The three other films in the two day retrospect were THE GRIFTERS, AMERICAN BEAUTY and BEING JULIA.