Title: Friends With Kids
Making a romantic comedy is tricky business and a good one at that. Think about when’s the last time you actually saw an excellent romantic movie. Now think about whether or not it was in a film festival that ended up in super limited release in some random art house movie theater hidden away from mainstream view.
It’s sad to see that the quality in romantic movies flies out the window most of the times and sacrifices decent story for some flimsy all-star cast. Though the cast in Jennifer Westfeldt’s “Friends with Kids” is part of a memorable cast from last summer’s breakout hit “Bridesmaids,” this movie isn’t poorly put together like other rom-coms out in recent memory. At the same time that doesn’t mean that this film is devoid of any flaws.
The movie starts out simple enough. Two best friends, Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) are coasting through their single lives in New York City as their other friends slowly begin to commit and have children. A few years later they realize that they both want to have kids one day but still haven’t found the right person. On a total whim, the two decide to make a deal where they’ll have sex and make a baby together without the complications of love and marriage. At first everything goes according to plan until the inevitable feelings get in the way, thus altering their relationship even more than it already has been.
Jennifer Westfeldt is a charming actress who’s been in film and television since the end of the nineties. She’s got a good presence onscreen and there’s no argument that she’s solid acting alongside Adam Scott, her male lead. But the biggest problem that a lot of writer / director / actor combinations that tend to happen is that in the end, most of the time, they can’t properly juggle all three. They end up dropping the ball on one of those sections and it’s usually pretty noticeable. Sadly the writing is the one aspect of the movie that suffers the most. One of the biggest scenes in the third act, which ends up bringing all of our characters down to their lowest point that leads us up to our conclusion, ends up going far too deep into the melodramatic and has a hard time recovering from there.
The comedy feels a little strained and the female lead character comes off as too preachy to the point of where it feels like the writer’s own personal opinions are being spewed out onto the audience. What makes it even worse is that those opinions end up being ignored and trampled over by the lead characters. It may sound harsh, but it’s a little difficult to relate with characters that are in the upper middle class that more or less no longer exists in this society. Most of us didn’t care for them in “Something Borrowed” and aren’t too happy with seeing it again in “Friends with Kids.” Along with that, there isn’t really a balance between the comedy and drama. Seventy to eighty percent of the movie feels like a comedy, yet when the third act hits everything goes into drama town. It feels uneven when that transition takes place.
Although the story is a little sloppy and the comedic dialogue falls flat, the acting is pretty satisfactory. Most of the main cast has worked with each other in some way and it’s a delight to see each of them take on different roles that don’t make them appear to be extensions of their “Bridesmaids” characters.
The direction falls into the satisfactory range again, simple but effective. Since it’s Jennifer Westfeldt’s directorial debut she did a fine job laying out the world that they’re all in and relies on smooth shots that further the story. It’s a nice way to start, though next time here’s hoping that she pushes her visual boundaries a bit more when she’s in the director’s chair a second time around.
The color is soft and subtle along with the editing except for the opening credits. It’s one thing to try and get a movie going right away, it’s a completely different matter if you’re running the opening credits by so fast that the audience almost literally has no idea what just whizzed by the screen. It just feels flat out disrespectful when something like that happens.
Overall “Friends with Kids” falls into the decent romantic comedy section. It’s got a few bumps along it’s satisfactory created production road but it’s better than most of the high budget films of the same genre that have come out in the past couple of years.