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Friends with Kids

2011 | 107 min | R | 1.85:1

Friends with Kids


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Theatrical release date

 09 March, 2012
 29 June, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from Friends with Kids Blu-ray

Friends with Kids Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 7, 2012

Trying to position herself as a female Woody Allen, forever interested in the habits of Manhattanites and their raging neuroses, writer/star Jennifer Westfeldt has called in all of her favors to help beautify her directorial debut, “Friends with Kids.” Commencing with a plausible swirl of social paranoia, domestic demands, and parental entitlement, the picture eventually grows unreasonably contrived, leaving the intriguing discomfort of the titular combination behind to work stale romantic comedy moves that would cause even Kate Hudson to dry heave. Attempting to remain in her comfort zone, Westfeldt mistakes cliche for charm, turning the potential for a provocative look at the erosion of friendships into a tedious sitcom.

Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) are longtime platonic friends watching as their pals, couples Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd), lose their connection to the outside world due to the birth of their children. Interested in the idea of kids but unable to make their individual relationships stick, Jason and Julie decide to have a baby together, finding their lifestyles ideally matched to raise a child. For the first year, the twosome find their tag-team parental roles easy to manage, yet it doesn’t take long before outside interests arrive to complicate the situation, with Jason drawn to actress Mary Jane (Megan Fox) and Julie falling for perfect guy Kurt (Edward Burns). Confronted with a significant separation, the pair is forced to deal with their true feelings for each other.

Making a splash with the 2001 indie darling “Kissing Jessica Stein,” and then flopping with 2006’s “Ira and Abby,” Westfeldt has endured a rough career of personal expression. Taking command of her own screenwriting, “Friends with Kids” is perhaps the purest concentration of the performer’s gifts, bringing in a longtime boyfriend (Hamm) and industry friends to assist in the execution of a promising concept. Toying with sensitive subjects for new parents, including the loss of group contact and the dismissal of intimacy, Westfeldt has an open field of possibility for her movie, with plenty of material to mine, funneling stories and gossip into an uncomfortably realistic depiction of lives paused, complicated here by the initial absence of sexual attraction. “Friends with Kids” has tremendous potential with a frighteningly relatable premise.

For the first hour, Westfeldt is making a comedy with a romantic mist in the air. Gathering this group of comedians, the triple threat essentially permits the ensemble to maintain a cocktail hour atmosphere of overlapping conversation and exaggerated pleasantries. For this gang, it’s an opportunity to riff like mad, bouncing off one another with amazing speed, and Westfeldt obliges these gifts by devoting an enormous amount of screentime to the chats, working in plot points and emotional beats along the way. “Friends with Kids” can be exhaustive to watch at times, with such competition to be heard poisoning the supposed spontaneity of the dialogue. These are funny people, yet there’s no appreciable focus, with Scott pushing too hard to be the cleverest man in the room. Less is definitely more with this script and setting. Westfeldt is too permissive with her cast, and her choice to hire affable Irishman O’Dowd as a New Yorker proves to be disastrous, finding the comic belching out a funky American accent that’s distractingly awful.

As she’s proven before in her cinematic endeavors, Westfeldt isn’t much for dimensional characters. Here, the men are all painted as beer-swilling, poker-playing, boob-obsessed goons, while the ladies remain irrational types made to suffer at the hands of doofy dudes. The conflict between Jason and Julie is also disappointingly predictable, with the script dragging out their attraction near-misses to a point of meaninglessness. Westfeldt displays little editorial handiness throughout the picture, but she positively labors over the two lead characters, forgetting to make the parenting pals likable as they fuss and huff their way to an easily telegraphed finale.

The second half of the picture assumes a heavy load of melodrama, losing the laughs to take the superficial relationships and complex parental plans on display here seriously, which proves to be a fatal mistake. Scripting herself into a corner without any intention of attacking Jason and Julie’s irresponsibility with honesty, Westfeldt takes a formulaic approach, assembling a break-up-to-make-up finale that’s impossible to digest. Parenting and marriage provide such a vast universe of experiences to dramatize, yet Westfeldt often picks moments we’ve all seen before, and in much better movies.

Starring: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Maya Rudolph, Megan Fox, Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm
Director: Jennifer Westfeldt

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