On Annette Bening’s Wrinkles and Lesbian Sex Scenes

Lisa Cholodenko shot Bening, 52, in the glory of her middle years, which feels like something brave and new

Lunch with Lisa Cholodenko, the writer-director of “The Kids Are All Right,” is not the typical Beverly Hills girl chat.

We’re in West Hollywood not Beverly Hills; the food is organic; the waiter wears a farmer’s hat and instead of Botox we talked about why she chose to cast Annette Bening, 52, as half of a lesbian couple in her movie.

“I wanted to cast an actor who looked her age. Who had her authentic face on,” said Cholodenko.

Julianne Moore plays Bening’s wife, and the film – just out on DVD – portrays the complications of gay marriage and children, decades into social normalcy.

Cholodenko shot the actress with barely any make-up and every wrinkle grandly visible.  It feels like an incredibly brave act by Bening  as something new unfolds on screen – a beautiful woman of a certain age unafraid to show herself as she is.

The performance has gotten Bening a lot of Oscar buzz for an unglamorous portrait of honest sexuality and domestic ennui.  (The couple's sperm-donor children seek and find their biological father, played by Mark Ruffalo, Julianne has an affair with him, and Bening is crushed. Cholodenko has taken heat from something called the “lesbian right wing” for being so politically incorrect as to permit a character to dally with a man.)

But we digress.

“It was important to me that these women seem real. That they were aging beautifully, but were real, sexy, appealing,” Cholodenko went on. Annette “has such charisma and sex apeal. A lot of make-up would not have seemed authentic.”

As for Bening – “we never had a wrinkle conversation,” she said.  “I just said, ‘I want the make-up to be super-modest,’ and that was the end of it. Julianne and Annette are not interested in vanity. But it was brave, because it’s a pain in the ass to age.”

The notion of freezing time “is such a tired point of view,” Cholodenko reflected. “I’m all for glamour and fantasy and suspending reality. But I think Julie and Annette have it right – they embrace the aging process.”

I told Cholodenko (pictured) about attending the “Kids” premiere screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival this summer. After it ended a group of a dozen women – mainly well-known figures on the indie scene – found themselves in the ladies’ room talking about their love for Annette Bening’s wrinkles.

“I didn’t feel it was” a political statement, said Moore, who was at the same lunch as Cholodenko and chimed in late. “I didn’t feel we were doing that. It’s about family and a relationship at the midpoint. “

Cholodenko admitted she struggled over whether to include a sex scene in which the lesbian couple watches (male) gay porn.

But she decided the scene was funny, if risque. Asked why a lesbian sex scene in “Black Swan” – with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis – seems to be provoking more discussion, Cholodenko had a point of view.

“Our is done in a comedic way,” she said. “Theirs is in a languid, sensual way.”

Yes, and did we mention Mila Kunis is in it?

Check, please.