Now playing in Raleigh at the Rialto Theater:
FRIENDS WITH KIDS (Dir. Jennifer Westfeldt, 2011)
With its generic title (not to be confused with FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS or FRIENDS WITH MONEY), its recognizable cast, rom com premise and New York City setting, this looks from the outside like yet another commercial chick flick, but it’s better than that. Much better.
Jennifer Westfeldt, who starred in and co-wrote KISSING JESSICA STEIN, makes her directorial debut (she also wrote, produced, and stars), in this comedy drama centering around a couple of long time friends (Westfeldt and Adam Scott), who decide to have a baby, but not a relationship.
Westfeldt and Scott’s friends, 2 couples consisting of Maya Rudolph married to Chris O’Dowd, and Kristen Wiig married to Jon Hamm (Westfeldt’s boyfriend since 1997), are doubtful that this will work, and so are we. I mean when you walk into this movie, you know that Scott and Westefeldt will realize that they love each other and become a real couple in the end, but it’s the way it plays out the chemistry of the leads that got to me.
So what that it hits all the standard rom com story beats when it has as sharp and witty a screenplay as this, and this particular group of extremely likable and funny folks (including most of the cast of BRIDESMAIDS) making it pop?
A soundtrack with songs by The 88, and Wilco (no escaping the label “Dad rock” here) helps the flow of the film, which often feels like we’re hanging out, dining, and drinking along with along with the ensemble.
Scott and Westfeldt have difficulty dating other people, of course, but Scott gives it the old college try when he meets Megan Fox, as a Broadway dancer, who every male in the film remarks about how hot she is. On Westfeldt’s side, she’s seeing Edward Burns, who everybody (more the men than the women actually) comments about how hot he is.
Despite dating Burns, Westfeldt finds herself falling in love with Scott, of course, but he’s getting serious about Fox – for the time being we all well know.
This is all predictable rom com fodder, but the sharp dialogue and energy of the acting often made me forget that.
Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm have less screen time than the rest, but they stand out at a dinner table scene at a cabin the couples are vacationing at (See? Another rom com story beat).
It’s obvious to the others that Wiig and Hamm are miserable and on the verge of divorce. Wiig, who certainly isn’t comic relief in this film, mainly drinks copious amounts of wine, but Hamm lashes out at Westfeldt and Scott in a menacing manner that even Don Draper would be intimidated by. It’s a effectively edgy scene – Hamm is trying to cut through the crap to reality, and as heated as he is, we all know that his criticisms are true.
There’s a bunch of humorous moments and a lot of honesty in FRIENDS WITH KIDS, even though some stuff about such an arangement are glossed over.
For example, we cut from Scott and Westfeldt’s wonderfully awkward sex scene to Westfeldt giving birth. Surely, something notable between these 2 happened during the 9 months she was pregnant, right? I guess not.
But that, and a few short scenes that fall short of hitting their mark, don’t keep FRIENDS WITH KIDS from being an enjoyable, tasteful film. Now I’m not saying that Jennifer Westfeldt is the new Woody Allen, but she just entered the ballpark.