Friends with Kids
Credits: Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt and starring Adam Scott, Megan Fox, Edward Burns, Maya Rudolph, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm , Kristen Wiig, Chris O'Dowd, Lee Bryant, Kelly Bishop and Cotter Smith.
Details: 107 mins, In Cinemas 7 June 2012, United States, English
Synopsis: Two best friends (Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt) decide to have a child together while keeping their relationship platonic, so they can avoid the toll kids can take on romantic relationships.
Indie rom-com risky but uneven.
It is hard to believe that these people would take on this particular parenting exercise
In many ways, Friends with Kids is like a throwback to a relationship idea film like Paul Mazursky’s Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice (1969) or Alan Alda’s Four Seasons (1981) where trends in relationships are taken for a cinematic road test.
This film starts with a premise, couched in comedic rather than dramatic terms, about the pitfalls of marriage and the functionality of friendship and how the former can be sidestepped and the latter manipulated in order to have a child without sacrificing happiness or personal freedom. So at the opening we have wallflower Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt, who also writes and directs) and babe-bedding Jason (Adam Scott) as best buddies. Their friends (Chris O’Dowd, Maya Rudolph, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig) are all happily entwined, and in four short years after the births of their children, the friends’ lives (with the film putting a big emphasis on their sex lives) are uprooted and in turmoil. Devastated at what has become of their Manhattan-dwelling chums (they had to move to Brooklyn for gawdsakes!), Julie and Jason hit on the idea of tackling parenthood as a friendly business arrangement, leaving them free to pursue their individual romantic lives.
An unusual idea, but having seen people try everything from ‘co-parenting’ to ‘embracing their inner child’ to ‘men’s weekends’ and ‘women who run with the wolves’ to ‘colonic irrigation’ (repeat after me: “It’s an enema”), the concept is not that absurd. Where the film falls down, is that it is hard to believe that these people – babe-chasing ad-man Jason and co-dependent Julie whose occupation remains a mystery – would take on this particular parenting exercise.
So it’s not exactly believable, but then again Jennifer Westfeldt is not exactly Woody Allen, no matter how many jazz standards she throws on to the soundtrack. What is interesting is about the film, after gleefully throwing around jokes about stretched vaginas, and even a couple of poo jokes (one of which is very funny in a down-to-earth domestic manner), is the way it fearlessly ploughs into dramatic territory without making apologies for leaving its romantic comedy premise behind.
Generally, the performances are not quite up to it (with Adam Scott being the weakest link), but Jon Hamm gives it a very edgy try as his character plunges into the script’s darker side. Because this is not the film we were promised at the outset, not all audiences will care to follow through. Westfeldt has also set herself the additional problem of having led the audience into the darkness, does she have the chops to bring us to a convincing resolution, whether it be light or dark?
The answer is no, but unlike many other films, Friends with Kids takes chances. It takes risks. Hopping into the directing chair hasn’t solved Westfeldt’s problem with finishing films satisfactorily (there were similar criticisms of her script of the 2001 film Kissing Jessica Stein), but she is ambitious with her talent. Friends with Kids might turn out to be the warm-up act for that masterwork that is yet to come.
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