In 2001 an indie rom-com was released calling Kissing Jessica Stein, it was an intelligent, comedy film about relationships that gave you a lot to think about. From the writer and star of that film is Friends with Kids. Hoping to follow in the success of Bridesmaids can this be the smartest comedy of the year?
For those not in the know: Friends with Kids is a romantic comedy starring, written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt. Its about two single friends Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt) and their circle of married coupled friends Leslie and Alex (Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd ) and Missy and Ben (Kristen Wiig and John Hamm-also Westfeldt’s Kissing Jessica Stein co-star and long term partner, sorry ladies!). Jason and Julie want children but having seen how strained the relationships of their married friends are after having children, decide to avoid finding partners and getting married and instead have a baby together. They agree they won’t be in a relationship but will raise the baby together leaving them free half the time to date other people.
Friends with Kids hits a lot of right notes and most of them funny. Westfeldt is a wonderful writer and the script really shines in this film, aided by a great cast. The best scenes are when the six friends are together, where lines are fast and funny but you also feel as those these characters and conversations are real. An early scene with them at a bar establishes the couples and their relationships before children impact on their lives. Alex even jokes that nothing will change once they have kids. He is soon proven wrong when we fast-forward a few years later and see that he and Leslie have hardly been out since having kids and are having petty arguments in front of their friends.
Although posters for the film have the stars of Bridesmaids Wiig and Hamm at the front, they are not the focus of the film. They’re more a warning to the main couple of how a good relationship can go badly wrong if you have a child with the wrong person. John Hamm looks like he’s having a blast as unhappily married Ben, whose goes from one vicious rant to another with his wife and friends looking on in horror (A New Year’s Eve trip is especially uncomfortable). The main focus is on the protagonists Jason and Julie, and whether their friendship can survive babies and dating other people, or will romantic feelings get in the way of their family bliss.
In one of the movie’s big surprises Megan Fox turns up as Jason’s girlfriend and is actually quite good. It’s a small role but its enough to make you wonder if Jennifer’s Body was not a fluke, and a good sign that her career post Transformers may be on the way up. One can only hope she keeps turning in likeable performances like this.
If there are any flaws, maybe Wig is underused in her role as Ben’s long suffering wife. Her reactions to her husband’s Ben’s many angry outbursts are well played and subtle rather than melodramatic. After seeing Bridesmaid you know she has the acting chops to get her teeth into more meaty scenes. In fact with such a talented ensemble cast it would have been good to have a few more scenes with them. At times Jason and Julie, while likeable for the most part, can come across a bit superior and patronising at times so it’s satisfying when John Hamm finally lets rip about their family situation, however out of order he may be. The last act also suffers from being a bit slow. Feeling are realised, fall outs ensures, emotions expressed but it takes a while to get there.
However it is a film where its good points far outweighs it flaws. The ensemble cast is great and there are plenty of laughs out loud moments and interesting characters for the audience to enjoy.
Verdict 3 ½ out of 5
A smart comedy about relationships, it’ll be interesting to see what Westfeldt will do next.