Friends with Kids-attachment0

Friends with Kids

Movie Information

The Story: Best friends Julie and Jason decide to go ahead and have a baby while they're both individually looking for his or her "perfect" romantic partner. The Lowdown: A pretty refreshing romantic comedy that thrives on good writing and characterizations, even while heading to the ending you knew it would have when you bought the ticket.
Score:

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, John Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns
Rated: R

Even though Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends with Kids is probably only about half as clever as it thinks it is, and about a third as “revolutionary” as it would like to be, it’s still one of the more agreeable and fresher romantic comedies to come out in some considerable time—even more so since it bears something of the indie-film cred. The truth is that it’s essentially a standard romantic comedy—right down to the penultimate reel of gloominess—that raises itself up to a considerably higher level by strong writing and playing. So while it isn’t the genre-breaking work it’s being pitched as, it’s a work of some note all the same.

Writer-director Westfeldt (best known to film audiences for the 2002 art-house hit Kissing Jessica Stein) stars as Julie Keller, who is best friends with Jason Fryman (Adam Scott, Our Idiot Brother). As they watch what looks like the death of romance that the stress of having children causes with their friends, they come up with a plan to avoid it. The idea is that they will sidestep all this by having a child, dividing the raising of said child, and leave themselves free for their potential “ideal mates.”  The concept is founded in the fact that neither finds the other attractive—so, of course, each has to apologize for shortcomings in the member and mammary department. Considering the genre we’re dealing with here, it’s not exactly a great mystery as concerns just what’s going to happen—and, for that matter, what we want to happen. The question is how it happens.

The primary thing that keeps Friends with Kids interesting and entertaining—and involving—is that the characters are unusually well drawn. It doesn’t stop at the two leads. The other two couples—Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd), as well as Ben (John Hamm) and Missy (Kristen Wiig)—have the air of reality, and, perhaps more importantly, the sense of being likable. That second quality is strong enough that it isn’t killed when one of the characters has an outburst of unpleasant and possibly uncalled for honesty. The two obvious wrong choices for partners that Julie and Jason make along the way are even fairly uncaricatured. Hell, I even liked Megan Fox! (It is not, I think, possible for me to like Edward Burns, so I don’t fault the film or Westfeldt there.)

What makes the film a little bit more special lies in the ways that it shows us, without explaining it, why Julie and Jason’s relationship works better. For that matter, the characters don’t explain it to each other, but it’s there to be seen, and the film trusts us enough to let us see for ourselves. Now, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture here. The film isn’t perfect. That penultimate reel where the characters break up is no better than any other movie’s and not as good as some others’. Also, while Westfeldt has a good touch with actors, here visual sense is rarely more than utilitarian, and at times the movie looks for all the world like a sitcom. But the plusses so outdistance the minuses that it doesn’t matter all that much. Rated R for sexual content and language.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

10 thoughts on “Friends with Kids

  1. Andy

    [b] (It is not, I think, possible for me to like Edward Burns, so I don’t fault the film or Westfeldt there.)[/b]

    Getting tired of his failed attempts to make Woody Allen-esque films, are you?

  2. Ken Hanke

    Hell, I’m still holding a grudge over having to sit through Sidewalks of New York about 10 years ago.

  3. Jeremy Dylan

    Well that’s a relief. I’ve been so hoping this movie would be good.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I have a sneaky feeling I know what your vested interest in this is.

  5. Jeremy Dylan

    It’s true, I am a big fan of the Alexa, and I’m thrilled to see it used on a smaller budget picture like this, with a great set of Cooke S4s on it.

    It’s proved itself on more high budget pictures like HUGO and IN TIME and Roger Deakins is shooting the new Bond picture with it, but its use for this shows its growing acceptance across the board.

    I hope it continues to expand in use throughout the industry, which I suspect it will do even more once the 4K version comes out.

    I find the image far more organic than the Red Epic, and especially the Red One, most notably in regards to skin tone. To me, it’s near impossible to tell while watching a modern picture if it’s been shot on 35mm film or an Arri Alexa, whereas I can pick the hyper-clean, almost anti-sepctic quality of the Red Cameras pretty easily.

  6. Ken Hanke

    It’s the website’s idea of fun, I think. I could go in there and fix that double post (yes, I have that power!), but I like your last post too much.

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