Sunday, March 11, 2012

Movie Review: Friends with Kids

Friends with Kids ***
Directed by: Jennifer Westfeldt.
Written by: Jennifer Westfeldt.
Starring: Adam Scott (Jason Fryman), Jennifer Westfeldt (Julie Keller), Jon Hamm (Ben), Kristen Wiig (Missy), Maya Rudolph (Leslie), Chris O'Dowd (Alex), Megan Fox (Mary Jane), Edward Burns (Kurt), Lee Bryant (Elaine Keller), Kelly Bishop (Marcy Fryman), Cotter Smith (Phil Fryman).

While watching Friends with Kids, I didn’t quite realize how clichéd it is. It wasn’t until after the movie was over, while thinking it over, that I realize just how closely it follows the typical romantic comedy formula. This is a movie about two best friends – Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt, who also wrote and directed), who are getting up in their 30s, have seen their best friends married and have kids, while they are still desperately single, with no prospects. The one thing they can agree on is that they want to have children. And who better to raise your kid with than your best friend? So, they have a kid together, and then get right back to dating. For each of them, their ideal mate is right in front of them, but it takes them the entire movie to realize that. That is essentially the same setup as every romantic comedy in history.

And yet, Friends with Kids, as filled with clichés as it is, feels fresh and original, at least while you’re watching it. A lot of that is due to the casting. Adam Scott, so good in Parks and Recreation every week, is perfectly cast as Jason, the smart aleck, womanizing best friend, who can never commit to anyone for very long, but is always good for a laugh. Westfeldt, writing her third movie (following the wonderful, original lesbian comedy Kissing Jessica Stein and Ira and Abby, unseen by me) and making her directing debut, knows precisely what role to write for herself – the quirky, neurotic who is usually cast as the “best friend” but finally gets her chance to shine. Her directing style is much like her writing and acting – low-key, but effective.

The supporting cast – made up of Bridesmaids alumni – add good support for these two. Chris O’Dowd and Maya Rudolph are a fairly happy, loving couple, who bicker constantly, but lovingly. Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm, have a darker relationship – not strong enough to survive the pressure of having children, as the slowly deteriorate until there is no relationship left to save. Megan Fox and Edward Burns are on hand briefly to be the personification of everything the two leads think they really want.

But the heart of the movie is Scott and Westfeldt and they have a nice chemistry together. They do a typical indie romance together, but because these two are so naturally charming and funny, you do not really care.

Friends with Kids is not a particularly original film, and yet it feels natural when its going on. From the scenes of them trying to raise a kid together, to slowly, but surely falling in love with each other, to their interactions with their friends, Friends with Kids is enjoyable while its going on. And I cannot recall the last true romantic comedy that I can say that about.

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