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Friends With Kids

March 23, 2012

Last year Kristen Wiig surprised audiences when she co-wrote the script for Bridesmaids. A hilariously tasteful yet at times vulgar coming of age story revolving around women, Bridesmaids changed the game for romantic comedies. The film revolves around 30-something year old Annie in the troughs of hitting rock bottom starting with the announcement that her childhood best friend is engaged and wants her to be a bridesmaid. Annie has to come to terms with her own dysfunctional relationships as well as the future of her career. Bridesmaids was smart, edgy, and relatable regardless of personal life experience or lack thereof, so when Friends with Kids was announced and the cast consisted of much of the cast of Bridesmaids as well as the hilarious straight man Adam Scott, I was sure I was going to be in for a treat. Yet ten minutes in I realized my mind would spend more time drifting than being blown away.

Set in an upscale schmancy Manhattan social circle, Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) are long time best friends happily playing the field until their friends Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd) reveal they are expecting their first child. Cynical about children and their effect on relationships, Jason and Julie are convinced that having a child can only work if a good system is established. The two decide to have a kid together but continue to live single lives for the sake of showing others that their arranged relationship is an ideal situation. But as time passes they begin to realize that maybe their arrangement isn’t as easy as they thought…I mean come on, what else would the drama be?

I respect Westfeldt, the wife of the beautiful and hunky John Hamm, for writing, directing and starring in a film that’s meant to be a reflection of the mentality of this generation’s thirty-somethings, and the casting of Friends With Kids couldn’t be better. Irish funny man Chris O’Dowd steals nearly every scene he’s in as Alex, a husband and father of 3 who is the oblivious husband to the exasperatedly funny Maya Rudolph as Leslie. The two as a couple capture some of the film’s best moments in terms of genuineness and comedy. In fact the film would have benefited had their relationship been the focus of the film.

However, we are sadly subjected to watching the irritating and odd relationship of Julie and Jason. Having mastered playing lovable assholes before, Scott’s role as Jason is one of the most unlikable characters of his career. Scott still finds ways to bring humor and likeability to Jason at times but overall the character is a shallow jerk who has such a cringe worthy opinions and ideas of women that it’s hard to get past in spite of his sincere kind moments. Wesfeldt’s obvious weak spot, besides her acting, is her writing seeing that Julie is almost more frustrating to watch than Jason. Julie’s personality can be summed up as basically: “ a dumb tramp.” She’s a flighty woman sleeping her way to the top, with very little matter between her ears and low self confidence.  It’s just not a good look if both your main characters are pricks.

It’s hard to call Friends with Kids “unbelievable” because of the times we live in. Friends with benefits type relationships have become a common practice that has seen more inquiry and social acceptance in the past decade. Because these types of relationships are becoming the norm, it seems only natural that couples would find good claim for having children without marital commitment for the sake of having their cake and eating the last bit too. The film argues how the destruction of the nuclear family can both positively and negatively affect children. That being said, I still thought of Friends with Kids as a story that was just hard to swallow. Two intelligent people in their 30s living among high class society would think it’s a great idea to have a kid for the sake of having one with no career repercussions or barely any social setbacks is just bizarre. It’s a film that treats child rearing as if it were like taking care of a well trained dog.

I didn’t hate Friends with Kids but I didn’t like it either. If it were a class reunion, Friends with Kids would be the person I talk to at the punch bowl only because we made eye contact and are forced to talk by the rules of social etiquette. The story of Friends with Kids is original although its plot is not. If you’ve seen Friends with Benefits or No Strings Attached then you know the ups and downs that will take place in Friends with Kids as well as its ending . Change the kids for relationships and you have the same story. But don’t worry this isn’t a loss for cast it’s just one for Westfedlt’s writing, sorry Jennifer.

AVOID IT. There’s better films by all of the actors that should be watched instead.

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