Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: jennifer Westfeldt
Stars: jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Jon Hamm, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Ed Burns.
Cinematically we’ve had all kind of friends, and most recently we’ve been introduced to Friends With Benefits, in which a couple tried to carry on a relationship based purely on sex, with no strings attached or emotional involvement. Friends With Kids is yet another comic spin on contemporary relationships and parenthood, and it explores a reality that many parents will probably recognise and empathise with. This is a raunchy romcom that, like the superior Bridesmaids, tries to show that female filmmakers can do potty-mouthed comedies with the best of them. The gratuitous profanity has the feel of a subpar Judd Apatow comedy.
Unfortunately, this one, written and directed by television actress Jennifer Westfeldt is a little bland. Friends With Kids is Westfeldt’s debut as a feature film director. It also marks her first effort at writing, producing and starring in a movie since 2001′s Kissing Jessica Stein, but this is aimed at a more mainstream audience.
Jason (Adam Scott, from tv sitcom Parks And Recreation, etc) and Julie (played by Westfeldt) have been platonic best friends ever since college, and they even live in the same apartment building in Manhattan. They watch as their married friends Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd) have children, and observe how the dynamics of their relationships change. Jason and Julia decide to have a child, and share the responsibilities of raising the child without the ties of marriage or commitment that their friends have.
They will be “100% committed half the time” to their parental obligations. But more importantly they will also be free to date other partners. Jason begins a relationship with the beautiful actress Mary Jane (Megan Fox), who doesn’t particularly like children, while Julie begins dating Kurt (Edward Burns), a kind-hearted contractor who is bemused by the nature of her friendship with Jason. However, over the course of the film the nature of their own relationship changes and they are forced to acknowledge their true feelings for each other.
Friends With Kids is an uneven comedy, and overlong for what it tries to say. It runs out of inspiration pretty quickly. Also many in the audience will be able to see where it is headed long before it gets there. And generally many of the central characters are an unlikeable, whining and selfish bunch. Westfeldt’s script has a brittle quality, but she still manages to unearth some painful home truths about contemporary relationships.
Westfeldt and Scott develop a nice chemistry that carries the film through some awkward patches. The solid cast includes many from Bridesmaids, although they have less to do here. Wiig and Hamm (Westfeldt’s partner in real life) play a once sexually voracious couple who seem to have lost that loving feeling and have grown apart, while Rudolph and O’Dowd continually snipe at each other.
The screen has been crowded with female oriented romcoms of late, and this one doesn’t really stand out as offering anything special or fresh.