‘Friends With Kids’ Review
The decision whether or not to procreate is one of the biggest ones we'll ever make. Much as it is recommended not to go to the supermarket when hungry, lest you make a poor choice, you should also put aside that call to the vasectomy clinic after a long flight amidst screaming toddlers.
The two leads in Jennifer Westfeldt's peculiarly entertaining film 'Friends With Kids', Adam Scott and Westfeldt herself, are platonic best friends who snark their way through life but have a genuine desire for offspring. The problem is they see how the li'l rugrats are ruining the lives of their married friends. Neither Scott nor Westfeldt has found “their one,” but biology being what it is, Westfeldt doesn't have that much time left to be choosy. What they need is a high concept solution that will lead to foibles and, eventually, a fuller appreciation of one another!
Perhaps I'm being flippant, but when the best buds decide to have a child and care for it jointly the way civilized divorced parents do (and continue to go on dating) it isn't hard to guess where the movie will ultimately lead. Luckily Westfeldt is able to have her pickles and ice cream and eat it, too, by adding in strong arcs for side characters.
With four members of the cast of 'Bridesmaids' in tow (Kristen Wiig and John Hamm, Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd) plus a little bit of Megan Fox, everything that isn't directly in the elevator pitch's line of sight has remarkable depth and a bit of touching nobility. It is pretty rare that you root for a couple to break-up, but 'Friends With Kids' is mature enough to present this as a correct decision for people in utter emotional agony.
I didn't realize it at first, but other than a scene that precedes a “Four Years Later” card, there's absolutely nothing funny about Kristen Wiig's character. All she does is look dour into a ubiquitous glass of wine. But we associate her with being funny, much like Scott and Westfeldt pine for the days of their friends before children “ruined” their lives. It's a sharp bit of shorthand, one of a number of clever devices this film uses to elevate itself above the usual rom-com torpor.
'Friends With Kids' gets its hands dirty with the rough business of making a long term relationship work, but don't get frightened off thinking it isn't funny. There are plenty of gag moments concerning awkward sex and baby poop and how to use an occupied stroller as a chick-magnet.
I'm afraid, however, that I have to call a little bit of bullshit on the utopian, platonic friendship between Scott and Westfeldt. Yes, men and women can be friends, but the decades-long, sexlesss, finishing-one-another's-sentences thing is something I've never witnessed in the real world. Late night patter-driven phone calls debating shark bites versus crocodile attacks whilst a hook-up snoozes alongside trades some of the well-earned verisimilitude for a cheap grab at quirk.
The big revelation, however, isn't that unconventional origins can lead to true love (please, we've all been to the movies) but that Adam Scott has a genuine career ahead of him as a leading man. He's charming and handsome, but humorous and self-deprecating enough to evoke true sympathies. His final confession of devotion is marked by what acting coaches like to call “good choices,” keeping the war horse plot mechanics very fresh. I'm very excited to see what kind of fallout this film has for Scott's future, as well as Westfeldt's next turn in the director's chair.