© 2012 Ray Wong
Writer-director-actor Jennifer Westfeldt broke out with her indie favorite Kissing Jessica Stein, a off-kilter gay comedy (which was a strange choice considering she is straight, being in a relationship with co-star Jon Hamm). This time, Westfeldt goes mainstream this time with Friends with Kids, a comedy about straight couples and their children.
Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) are best friends who are not at all attracted to each other (so there is no romantic possibility between them). Jason is a serial dater, while Julie is waiting for "the one." After watching their married friends Ben (Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristen Wiig) as well as Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O'Dowd) plunge into misery after having kids, Jason and Julie decide the only sane way of having kids without killing the romance is by having kids with your best friend (with whom you're not romantically involved).
So, despite their friends' objection, they decide to go for it. They both want kids, but still haven't found their "persons" yet. Julie's biological clock is ticking and Jason thinks it would be a good idea for him to be a father. To their delight, their plan works, and they are able to maintain their friendship, continue to date other people, and raise a boy together.
Then things get complicated. Sharing custody with Jason day in and day out makes Julie feel something for Jason that she's never felt before. Knowing that Jason doesn't feel the same way, she brushes the feelings away, believing she's just lonely. She starts to date again and meets a wonderful dreamboat named Kurt (Edward Burns), while Jason believes he's met "the one" in Mary Jane (Megan Fox), a beautiful Broadway dancer. Their romantic and domestic arrangements start to wreak havoc with their lives and friendship.
As an actress, Jennifer Westfeldt (24) is somewhat stiff as Julie. Perhaps it's the writing (although she wrote the part for herself), her character never really quite takes off. Her personality is rather on the passive, unconfident side, so it's harder for the audience to engage. It's not until near the end that Westfeldt shows some spunk and gumption after being jilted. As her counterpart, Adam Scott (Our Idiot Brother) has a bit more fun playing the "player." He manages to show the character's charm, gentle and loving side as well as his clueless, romantically challenged personality. That said, Westfeldt and Scott have great chemistry together and you really can believe that they belong together.
While the leads do a respectable job with their roles, the supporting cast boasts a strong comedic ensemble that would make any producer jealous, including four Bridesmaids alumni: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd and Jon Hamm. This time, Hamm and Wiig play an estranged couple (and they look great together) while Rudolph and O'Dowd play a loving couple who is coping with their chaotic parenting life. These performances are all great, making it evident that they simply don't have enough screen time. The movie would have been so much funnier if it was about these two couples instead. Megan Fox (Jonah Hex) and Edward Burns (Man on the Ledge) join the cast as Jason's and Julie's love interests respectively.
Westfeldt explores broad themes in this romantic comedy: friendship, parenthood, unrequited love, loyalty, and unconventional families. By and large, she succeeds in weaving these themes together in a coherent and often humorous plot without hitting us on the head with them. Still, as a comedy, the story takes some predictable and "easy" routes. The situations sometimes seem contrived (I rather have some difficulty believing in the basic premise of two best "straight" friends having a baby together) and stereotypical (does parenthood have to be either utterly miserable or a bliss?).
Still, Westfeldt's dialogue is sharp and insightful; the plot is coherent and amusing; and the messages are sincere. Despite the focus being on Jason and Julie, the other characters are nicely drawn and realistic. The pacing is brisk with enough humor and wit. While the plot and ending are predictable, we come to expect that -- it is, after all, a feel-good romantic comedy.
Its inherent flaws and shortcomings notwithstanding, Friends with Kids is a gentle, humorous look at parenthood, friendship and love. It is an earnest story, and I wouldn't mind watching it with friends.
Stars: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns
Director: Jennifer Westfeldt
Writers: Jennifer Westfeldt
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language
Running Time: 107 minutes
Script - 7
Performance - 7
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 7
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 7
Total - 7.0 out of 10.0