Title: Friends with Kids
Directed By: Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns
Writing, directing and acting are tough enough on their own. It’s hard to imagine one person wearing all three hats on a feature, let alone her first go at directing. Then again, perhaps it’s not an issue when you really believe in and understand a piece, which seems to be the case with Jennifer Westfeldt and her feature Friends with Kids. Westfeldt offers up a solid script, boasting both humor and heart, she’s got a good eye for this type of movie, keeping her camerawork simple and letting her actors and editor hit the necessary comedic beats, and brings to life an incredibly likable and strong lead.
It’s time for another group dinner. When Jason (Adam Scott), Julie (Westfeldt), Ben (Jon Hamm), Missy (Kristen Wiig), Alex (Chris O’Dowd) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) meet up for yet another fun night out in Manhattan, Alex and Leslie drop some big news; they’re having a baby. Sure enough, Missy and Ben are next, making Jason and Julie the only members of their clique sans kiddie. Then again, considering Jason and Julie aren’t even dating, it’d be a little odd if they were having a baby together, right?
As Julie’s just about to pass her prime baby making years, Jason suggests they just go for it. They’re best friends and know each other better than anyone. Plus, they could have a family without all the drama that comes with having a kid after marriage. So, in comes baby Joe.
Westfield is quite the triple threat. The first act of Friends with Kids is about as solid as they come. We open with a brief and very unique phone call between Jason and Julie, solidifying the state of their relationship, and then get to see where their personalities fit into their group of friends. Once we get comfortable with the whole gang, fast-forward four years to a life of bickering, crying and poop – for Ben, Missy, Alex and Leslie at least. Not only are both moments oozing with snappy and amusing dialogue, but the stark difference between the two scenes itself is hilarious.
Once that stage is set, Westfield hands the majority of the piece off to Julie and Jason. Sure, they’ve both got their own quirks, but Julie and Jason make for a particularly likable leading duo. You don’t want them to end up with troubles like their friends, but at the same time, you believe they really can pull this off and want to see them find joy in having a kid.
Some of the supporting characters in Friends with Kids, however, don’t fair as well. Alex and Leslie make for a pair of pretty solid friends, but at the same time, there’s something almost a bit self-serving about them. While Julie and Jason’s snarky banter from the beginning of the film transpires as loving jests, Alex and Leslie’s dialogue can feel the slightest bit mean spirited. Still, the pair does grow on you. It’s Hamm and Wiig that have the biggest hurdle to overcome – underdeveloped characters. This may not be accurate, but based on the material presented in the final film, it seems like Westfeldt might have written juicier parts for them, but some scenes got cut. What we’re left with are two people who are going through a pretty intense situation, but severely lacking in the backstory and explanation needed to care about it.
Edward Burns steps in as an eligible bachelor for Julie, Kurt. It’s quite obvious right from the start that you’re supposed to be rooting for Jason, but Kurt makes for some strong competition. You’ll undoubtedly be swayed by his charm, just like Julie. As for Scott’s potential match, Megan Fox isn’t quite as appealing. Then again, I’d like to bet our male readership will beg to differ. While Kurt is Julie’s knight in shining armor, Mary Jane is more like Scott’s ideal plaything, which clearly for him is impossible to resist. On the other hand, as a young woman sitting in the audience, it’s tough to believe why he’d let himself be seduced by more superficial elements when Jason seems like a smart and perceptive guy.
Regardless of any character flaws, there are more than enough top-notch performances to go around to sell the story. And, on top that, the script really is notably strong in itself. With a cast that makes Friends with Kids look like Bridesmaids 2, you might be expecting a feature crammed with jokes and crude humor. Yes, Friends with Kids does come with more than enough gags to keep you laughing almost the entire way through, but what makes it stand out amongst all the comedies out there is while it’s funny, the humor never undermines the situation. Raising a kid is no laughing matter and neither are relationship woes. Friends with Kids respectfully pokes fun at the ups and downs of life all while making this fictional story feel very real resulting in a particularly satisfying experience.