Reading through Jack Halberstam's critique of The Kids Are All Right, I found myself agreeing with a lot of his points. I was especially glad that he brought up the casual, blatant shows of racism in the movie as well as the bourgeois assumptions that both Paul and Nic & Jules bring to the film. I also agree with him that the movie paints lesbian relationships in a kind of negative light, with both the moms being neurotic and overbearing. I especially felt that Nic got the short end of the stick in some parts of the movie; she's painted over as the bad guy for disliking what this stranger is doing for her family and the filmmakers don't go into her feelings at all- just that she's overreacting and crazy. The same light is shone on Jules, in that she sleeps with Paul several times and goes through this mid-life crisis without any real explanation or examination into her feelings, except at the end when she's been caught. These things make the characters a little more shallow and incomplete.
One thing I did not like about Halberstam's article, though, was this idea that the film was perpetuating a failed lesbian relationship because of the lack of sex. They are unsuccessful at having sex in the movie, it is referenced that they haven't had sex in a long time, and then Jules sleeps with Paul repeatedly. He says at one point that this lack of blatant (lesbian) sexuality "somehow seals the moms in asexual pathos and interferes with our ability to really identify with them." As he talks about "trading sex for comfort" being a bad thing in the movie, I find myself irritated because I am asexual and I desire an asexual lesbian relationship. Both Cholodenko and Halberstam are falling back on this familiar ideology that sex as an activity defines who we are: how we identify, how we want to live our lives, how we identify others, and how we relate to others. And while I believe this is true for our generation, both people are making the critical presumption that everyone is sexual, wants to be sexual, and that sex is a necessary component in a relationship. Without sex, Nic and Jules' relationship has somehow failed and has driven Jules to sleep with Paul. Paul, who is portrayed as being sexually free and voracious, which is seen as being desirable even though he wants monogamy at the end of the movie.
When it comes to this idea that "trading in sex for comfort, change for stability, and improvised relationships for marriage are all bad deals", this is especially apparent in The Kids Are All Right, as Halberstam covered. I think The Birdcage is the antithesis of that, though. Albert and Armand are not sexual in the movie, but they are sweet and affectionate. The movie is based around a sudden instability in their lives, whereas stability is being shown as a desirable thing: they long for their lives to go back to normal. Meanwhile, "improvised" relationships never make an appearance in The Birdcage.