I nearly shut off Friends With Kids fifteen minutes into the movie. The view of married couples with children and how their lives are changed by having kids is so one sided (you have no life, guys are dicks and irresponsible, you never get any sleep, you’re no fun anymore) that I was pissed off at writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt. Moreover, the whimsical premise that two single friends can have a child and make it work better that a married couple (and in the film, do) was pretty condescending to us married folk.
Fortunately for Westfeldt, she assembled a superb ensemble to act in her directorial debut, including Jon Hamm (her off screen beau and one of the film’s producers), Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd (who seems to be popping up everywhere these days), Ed Burns and a surprisingly good Megan Fox. Taking the leads in the film are Westfeldt herself and an outstanding Adam Scott, whose foot has been so planted in comedy these days (see Parks and Recreation and Party Down), that it’s refreshing to see him take on a role with a little more dramatic meat. Together all of these actors breathe fresh life into Westfeldt’s characters, all of whom seem to have stepped out of a Woody Allen film.
Indeed, there are moments throughout Friends With Kids when the lead actress is channeling Diane Keaton. And the ending of the film takes its cue from Manhattan, as well as that great Woody Allen homage, When Harry met Sally… (written by the late Norah Ephron). By the time the film reaches that ending, the movie has shifted from an ensemble dramedy into a more traditional romantic comedy and becomes a more enjoyable film, at least to this man with kids whose life hasn’t turned to shit.
Westfeldt and Scott portray Julie and Jason, neighbors in a Manhattan apartment building, best friends who share their most intimate secrets, including every sexual exploit. They are friends with two couples- Missy and Ben (Wiig and Hamm) who can’t keep their hands off each other, even sneaking to the bathroom for a quick romp while waiting for their drink orders at a restaurant, and Leslie and Alex (Rudolph and O’Dowd), a more down to earth couple who announce in the opening frames that they’re expecting their first child. Jump ahead four years and we see that Leslie and Alex live a chaotic, depressing life as parents. At the same time, Missy and Ben have a child of their own and these two practically hate each other. Feeling their biological clocks ticking, Julie and Jason decide to have a baby together. Both claim to have no romantic feelings for the other and they believe that splitting the parental duties while still maintaining their active single lives will be a breeze.
Obviously, this being a movie, we know that Julie and Jason will eventually develop feelings for each other. However, Westfeldt goes the Harry/Sally route by introducing two romantic interests for each main character. For Julie, it’s Ed Burns, who has become a much more interesting actor over the years, and Megan Fox, as a working actress with no interest in children, despite Jason already being a dad. Everything about Jason and Julie comes to a head during an epic dinner sequence that sees Hamm deliver some great, Don Draper-esque moments, and Scott matching him with some fine acting, as well. I won’t give away whether Jason and Julie wind up together. Friends With Kids could have easily been a PG-13 movie, yet Scott’s relish for the ‘F’ word easily made this an R rated movie. However, the overuse of the word fuck pays off in the end with one of the most romantic and profane last lines of a film in recent memory.
Friends With Kids comes with deleted scenes and plenty of commentary by Westfeldt, Hamm and Director of Photography, William Rexer. All three have a comfort and ease of speaking to each other that is inviting to listeners and makes the commentary interesting and fun to listen to.