Review: ‘Friends with Kids’ is the child of predictability and occasional humor

Written and Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt

Written and Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt

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.

Am I supposed to know the climax so early into the movie?

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!”

When you’re a proponent of traditional relationships and watch this movie.

Rating: B

Official Trailer

Review: ‘The Giant Mechanical Man’ is not quite a giant of a film

Written and Directed by Lee Kirk

Written and Directed by Lee Kirk

 

There is a certain quote from the film that I believe forms my reaction to the movie: “I never believed in you, Tim. I just thought you were charming.” This seems harsh, I know. Let me explain myself.

Yeah, I said it!

The Giant Mechanical Man (2012) is about thirty-somethings Janice (Jenna Fischer, The Office), a recently fired temp, and Tim (Chris Messina), a street performer, as they struggle to find direction in adult life. Both Janice and Tim find jobs at the local zoo; they are desperate to find a job so that they can prove to the people in their life that they are on the right track. Janice and Tim connect with each other because they both feel lost in a world that assumes that by their age, they have their life figured out.

The framework for a good movie is all in place. The premise of the film is pretty interesting – they’re both directionless zooworkers, Tim being the title character – the Giant Mechanical Man. There is even a good assembly of a cast – Chris Messina, in my viewing experience, is a rather versatile actor. Jenna Fischer is great as the soft-spoken love interest. I even liked Topher Grace, who plays the douchebag motivational speaker Doug (a little too well…). The actors had good chemistry together, most notably between Chris and Jenna. This was not the problem.

The movie, which is a quirky indie romantic comedy, definitely has the faux-indie feel. Think ‘poor’ people living in spacious loft apartments and a soundtrack that would have all the vinyl-loving kids in coffee shops swooning. I’m not sure if this was a poorly researched attempt to make a rom com attractive to the art house crowd, or if director Lee Kirk actually believed that the kinds of life portrayed in the film are actually real.

I think the problem was mainly in the screenplay. The dialogue between characters seemed as though it was written by a fifteen-year-old who was trying to put themselves in a deeply mature existential crisis, but didn’t quite have the words to describe their feelings.

Basically the entire movie.

 

I don’t have a problem with the premise of the movie. Finding direction in one’s life can be very difficult at times, especially when society is so fast-paced. The film is a good reflection on the arrested development of Western society’s young adults – we are told at such an early age that we have to have a definite syllabus of our life, and when we question our blueprint, we feel like outsiders in a world that seems to have it all together.

The audience identification in the film is very accurate, I admit. I am not in my thirties, but I know that my lack of a five-year-plan for myself sets me apart from my peers. What will I do with my life? The Giant Mechanical Man makes the point that there is no strain to know exactly what you want in life, but that you know what you don’t want. That is what experiences, mistakes, and being alive are for: to learn. That is not a cheesy message – that is reality.

Rating: B-

Official Trailer