the REVIEW: Friends With Kids

I haven’t done one of these for a while. That’s not because I haven’t seen anything lately, on the contrary there has been many films ticked off my list. It’s exhausting. Some I choose to talk about A) because I am so thrilled/disappointed by the experience that I after chewing whoever has accompanied me to the cinema’s ear off, I still have a lot to say so I post it; Or B) I want to talk about the film everyone/no-one is talking about. More recently it’s been a lot of blockbusters in the IMAX*, however I have made ample room to get more comedy under my belt and since a new-found love for ‘the happy’ ( sentiments, inspiring, love love loooove, films about love) over the borderline depressing indie (Sofia, Gus, Jim – I love you but we can’t go one like this every other year)  and ‘the chiller thriller’ (you like? meh me neither, let’s not say that again okay?)

This is perhaps a no brainer but there is a new hollywood comedy movement taking form. Think about it, the R-rated stuff is pretty much hit its peak, but the light-hearted, romantic, specific age-appropriate/ ensemble cast comedy is now hitting the screens and you know it’s still the same group of people who brought us all the other stuff first time round, only they’re getting older. Forget the Valentine and New Years Eve (please, forget them) there is an exciting offering in 2012 when What to expect when you’re expecting – a movie that boasts a cast of ridiculous rom-com proportions that if it fails then the world may just end- hits the screens. Its also a movie about starting a family, a very 30 something to do. Bridesmaids provided a view in to heightened  lives of the 30-something women problems last year and  this year sees Jason Segel and Emily Blunt as couple about to embark on a Five Year Engagement. Then there’s 40-Something,  a spin-off from Knocked Up, directed by Judd Apatow, starring Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd delves into the lives of life after marriage and with kids. So a lot of comedies about complex middle of the road peoples, having babies, talking marriage and having babies. It’s funny because it feels like everyone is having babies and getting married recently. There’s some theories floating about it having to do with the recession and stuff, but I think I’m getting older and now my interests are attuned to certain topics.

Today I want to talk about the Indie comedy, Friends with Kids. Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt and starring Adam Scott,  Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns, Samantha Bee and Westfeldt also in one of the main role.

Make no mistake this is a satisfying cast list. Especially for the Kissing Jessica Stien star and co-writers directorial debut Westfeldt’s. Granted Jon Hamm is her husband…Adam Scott is a close friend, and more or less the rest have been lifted from Bridesmaids. This was an okay film. It was nice to watch and it’s nice to have another offering from a female director.

The Story (may be spoilers):

Two best friends Julie and Jason (I know) make the noble decision to have a baby together as friends, in order to avoid the complexities and pitfalls of marital and sexual bliss that they have observed in the relationships of their close group of coupled friends. They agree to be 100% dedicated to halving the responsibilities . Flash forward the pregnancy and the culminating birth of their child, things are still rosie, then comes the tribulations of extended family friends.  Jason, a serial dater, gets together with sex on legs Mary-Jane (Megan ‘is a’ Fox), and Julie finds herself in the arms of Kurt (‘hot-Ed-Burns). Meanwhile their friends are having their own adult relationship problems and it’s up to Jason and Julie to reassess the efficiency of the pact they had made 2 years before.

Friends With Kids is a good film. Heartfelt and funny and easy to watch. Similarities of the Bridesmaids cast aside, this is nothing like it. Nor does it fall in-line with the dozens of formulated romantic comedies we’ve been seeing over the years. Written, directed and starring Westfeldt this film plays heavy on the dialogue, slightly on the corny and less on the crude toilet humor. For me it was like watching less neurotic and light-weighted production of a Woody Allen film. Discussions between the two protagonists, played by Scott and Westfeldt as the friends who are clearly in-love but are too self involved to realise it yet, is the heart of the film. They are clearly so intertwined with each others lives that even their friends initially expect them to get it on. Despite the presence of Wiig  she and the rest of the Bridesmaids alum take a back seat in this film.

Missy and Ben’s (Wiig and Hamm) story is perhaps a sad and more realistic portrait of what can happen when two sexually attracted people suddenly find themselves married with kids before realising they can not actually stand each other. That story is not this story however and we are given brief glimpses in to the supporting casts lives in favor of the lesser known Westfeldt and Scott characters. I’m not complaining. It just would have been nice to see more of Wiig in that role, it’s so out of her funny girl box and more serious but Hamm will forever be a version of Don Draper. Maya Rudolph as the sensible friend Leslie is brilliant. It may have something to do with the fact that she genuinely looks like the friend we should all have, the rock (and the one who was cray cray but always had a good head on her shoulders) and for what little screen time she has (considerably more than Wiig) she does a great job of never suffering fools lightly and telling Julie what she thinks of her absurd agreement with Jason. Her own 10 year relationship with Alex, (played by Chris O’Dowd) six years her junior, is a little strained because he is essentially still a little immature and she is slightly controlling, however their relationship brings the comic relief.  Now Chris O’Dowd is a great comic actor: the IT crowd, Dinner with Schmucks, Bridesmaids and dare I say it Gulliver’s Travels. All great performances where he arguably stole scenes in each, however he can not do an American accent. I have no idea why he couldn’t have just stuck to his Irish one like he did in Bridesmaids, their needn’t have been any explanation as to why, it’s plausible that an Irishman would be living in New York. Unfortunately what may have been brilliant scenes with him were cringing, because of his terrible faux accent. Megan Fox and Ed Burns provide hollywood hotness, and you know what? they are a welcomed distraction.

The nice thing about Friends with Kids is that delves beyond the a lot of the usual fluff  of the conventional romantic  love story. It’s also a story that may resonate with many people today. More and more children are being born out-of-wedlock and there are more relaxed liberal views being expressed  in regards to raising a family challenging the conventions of marriage, living under the same roof or even being in-love in  favor of convenience and sometimes reasons of pure vanity. Though the subject pair are not choosing to have a child because of their genes, they are making a conscious effort to have one together because they trust each other and still want to be free to live their lives without being tied down and unhappy. It’s an interesting premise for a romantic story even if they build it up to take it down. The film also dedicates equal amounts of time to explore the complexities of being an aging single parent from the perceptions of two characters (male and female); thank-goodness, because another montage scene of a single gal making it on her own through the cobbled streets of New York whilst crying on her the shoulders of friends over a Carrie Underwood soundtrack about heartache and brown leaves in autumn would have killed. However, make no mistake, you already know how this one ends.

*Guys, the IMAX experience blows my mind every time. I think I have a problem. It’s like my regular cinema now. I’m finding it really hard to downgrade and having recently realised I have a first hand contact to score free tickets…I feel like shit’s about to get worse in 2012.

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