18 July 2012 | StevePulaski
Stays true to its genre name
In 2011, we were faced with two films asking whether or not it was possible for two people to casually have sex and unintentionally fall in love with one another. In 2012, we are presented with, from what I can see, one film that asks a more debatable and better question; is it possible for two people that are vaguely attracted to one another to have a baby, and while raising it, make efforts to meet and see other people? I'll be completely honest and say I could not and would not ever want to do this, although the idea, when put on the table, immediately sparked my interest. Not only does the idea of having kids disinterest me completely at this point in time, but I find that plan sort of selfish and unfair on both the parents and the child. If the parents seek out relationships with other people, the inevitability of it all will be that one or both of the parents will become so caught up in the new relationship that they will dump the baby on the other person. And unfair for the child, because every baby deserves a prominent mom and dad figure in their life.
Friends With Kids asks this question, using two couples and two very close friends as the subjects. The two friends are Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt, who serves as the writer, one of the six producers, and director), who have been the kind of people who are truly meant for each other, but neither one will wake up and realize it. Their friends are the collective Alex and Leslie (Chris O'Dowd and Maya Rudolph) and the intimate sex-hounds Ben and Missy (Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig, all four are Bridesmaids alumni). The film opens with them childless, happy, and even more ecstatic once Leslie announces that she will be having a baby at dinner at a luxurious New York restaurant.
Four years later, the two couples have children and their marriages lack the intimacy and cheeriness they once bubbled with. The only two that still seem remotely happy are Jason and Julie, who both remain single and childless. After a disastrous party for Jason, the two talk over the idea of having children, something Julie has wanted for a while seeing as she is older than Jason. Jason and Julie figure that if they have a baby together and then proceed to move forward by dating other people, yet still taking care of the kid, their relationship as friends will not suffer.
They decide to do this on a whim and out of convenience, and nine months later, they have a child. Now here comes the inevitable part; they must support it yet are trying to seek out new people to date as well. Jason falls lust at first sight when he meets the offbeat and attractive Megan Fox's Mary Jane, and Julie can't seem to take her eyes off the rather cliché everyman, Kurt (Edward Burns).
Their friends are concerned for their behavior, mainly because they believe the having-a-child-without-plans-to-marry setup was an impulsive and foolish decision on their part. One area Friends With Kids absolutely wins at is its ability to have believable, real-life conversations that are projected through a mature, human scope. One of the most heartbreaking scenes involves Jason, a rather self-absorbed, egotistical character, confessing to Julie why they could never be together. This scene doesn't pull any punches. It genuinely makes its audience wince. No sight gags or one-liners involved.
Another perfect scene involved Jon Hamm's Ben lecturing Jason on why having a kid was a stupid idea on his part, and how the kid may grow up to be confused and troubled by not having two firm parental figures in his life. These are the scenes that create great humanity and drama between the characters, in an non-contrived, believable manner.
Friends With Kids feels like an exercise in Woody Allen-esque filmmaking, right down to the intellectual characters and the subtle character the state of New York plays. It's charming, often quite poignant, and perhaps offers some keen insights about the idea of raising children that is often forgone in many modern romantic comedies. It's endearing and reassuring to see a picture so true to its "romantic comedy" title.
Starring: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Chris O'Dowd, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, and Jon Hamm. Directed by: Jennifer Westfeldt.