I’ve been watching a lot of films lately that have been written and directed by the same person; that person may even have placed themselves in a starring role in their film. In my opinion, this usually leads to the director/writer/actor becoming a bit sparse in all areas of the film. Friends with Kids (2011) is no exception. Although overwhelmed with a talented and recognizable comedic cast, I think director/writer/actor Jennifer Westfeldt had her hands full, and was not able to pull off a clever and original romantic comedy as she intended.
Jason (Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) have been inseparable since fourth grade. They are intelligent, entertaining, and successful professional adults, and their biggest attribute is that they are both unattached in the Significant Other department. They have two sets of couple friends; Missy (Kristen Wiig, SNL) and Ben (Jon Hamm, Mad Men), and Leslie (Maya Rudolph, SNL) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd). Both couples are married and eventually have children. Jason and Julie decide that they want the best of both worlds – to have a child, but to also be unattached to find ‘The One’. They have a child together, while remaining in the dating pool. As they raise their child, things become muddled and they must find what relationships are truly made of.
Progressiveness is the emphasis of the film. By emphasis, I actually mean The Glaring Obviousness of Attempting to be “Open-Minded”. The audience is treated to the gloriously character-defining scene of Jason’s cell phone ringing on a copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. I will admit one thing – I am openly religious. There you go, Internet! I will watch as all my readers slowly shake their heads and vow to never read a Broke Student Review again. I am not admitting this because I disliked Jason’s blatant anti-theist character; in fact, I didn’t mind it at all. I am admitting it because at the very beginning of the film, the framework of the plot flashed before my eyes in these few frames of the book’s visibility.
Maybe this was Westfeldt’s intention: to present a progressive portrayal of modern relationships in order to make a satirical statement on their superficiality. In that case, Westfeldt did a fantastic job. If this was not her intention, then the film is disappointingly predictable.
Even if the film could have done better if Westfeldt left at least one thing to someone with less on their plate, I still enjoyed the movie because of the casting. The cast had incredible chemistry. Four of the actors (Hamm, Rudolph, Wiig, O’Dowd) had worked together before in the film Bridesmaids (2011) and again were able to prove their harmonious diversity. All of the actors were able to move fluidly from comedic to dramatic execution. The film was entertaining if only to watch the relationships of all the characters unfold.
If you, like Jason and Julie, are someone who considers themselves a progressive or open-minded individual, then Friends with Kids might be a pleasant and surprising cinematic endeavor for you to embark. However, if you are like me, then this movie will leave you will a furrowed brow and many exasperated sighs of “uh…duh!”