Friends with Kids
Now Showing at: Mariemont Theatre, AMC Newport on the Levee, and the Rave West Chester
Review by: Larry Thomas
Movie relationships used to be much simpler when it was Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland putting on a show. Or when Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn were playing their cat-and-mouse game in Bringing Up Baby. These days, relationships on film are pretty much like real life…extremely complicated. Such is the case with the new film Friends With Kids. The film opens with three couples getting together for dinner. Kristen Wiig is married to Jon Hamm. Maya Rudolph is married to Chris O’Dowd. If the names are familiar, it’s because all four were in Bridesmaids. The third couple are two lifelong friends played by Adam Scott, mostly a TV actor who does nerdy roles, and Jennifer Westfeldt, who is also the writer and director of Friends With Kids. The film chronicles the progression of the couples over several years. The two marrieds have kids… and problems. The two friends don’t seem to have problems, until they decide to have a kid together for no good reason other than “just because.” They live separately, pursue other relationships, and share the expense of the new family member fifty-fifty. All of this may sound more than familiar, and you can probably already guess how it ends up. There’s humor, but it’s not generally a laugh-out-loud comedy like Bridesmaids. There are tears, tension, and troubles, especially the longer the relationships progress. But in the end, it’s all up to writer-director-star Westfeldt, since she’s wearing all the hats on this production. And while some things are good, others aren’t.
Writer Westfeldt wanted so badly to make another Woody Allen-type movie, which this isn’t. I’m no prude when it comes to movie dialogue. Scorsese and Tarantino don’t offend me with their expletives and euphemisms. But some of the dialogue in Friends With Kids could be rather offensive to some audience members. For the most part, Woody Allen does not take the shock value road when fishing for words for his characters.
Director Westfeldt was wise to choose such a good supporting cast for the ensemble. Although Adam Scott hasn’t done as many movies as the others, he comes across as being believable, and even occasionally charming. Wiig, Hamm, Rudolph, and O’Dowd are right at home with this material, and they make the most of it. Actor-director Edward Burns and former Transformers star Megan Fox play the other relationships for Westfeldt and Scott. And, in her directorial debut, Westfeldt handles everything nicely, from the cast to the pacing, to the look and feel of the film. Unfortunately, director Westfeldt should not have hired herself as the star. She seems very uncomfortable with the character. Maybe that comes from being distracted by taking on too many tasks in one film.
Without giving away the ending, it was unsatisfying, and cobbled together using a forced situation with some really stupid dialogue. But, all things considered, Friends With Kids is an okay movie. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, and if you’re really into the contemporary romance kind of film, you may really enjoy it. Just bear in mind that, despite the cast, it’s not another Bridesmaids.