100% Committed, 50% of the Time

19 Mar

Here’s a truth that people with children don’t like to admit: Things are different once the kids arrive.

Oh, sure. You say things won’t change, and you’ll do everything exactly the same as before … but you just can’t.

And all of a sudden, whether they want to or not, your single or childless friends have to work around that, your relationship with them changed forever.

The first 15 minutes of Friends with Kids, Jennifer Westfeldt’s smart, sophisticated, funny new film, dramatize this in cringe-worthy fashion.

Julie (Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) are the last two singletons in their close-knit group of friends. Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm) are blissful newlyweds who can’t keep their hands off each other, and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd) have just announced that they’re expecting a child. All are happy, and swear that things won’t change when the kids arrive.

Flash forward four years, and now Leslie and Alex are stressed out parents, and Missy and Ben, parents as well, are barely on speaking terms. Rather than go out and have fun like they used to, the group now has to convene for Jason’s birthday at Leslie and Alex’s place, where the dress code is dressed-down, screaming kids are the soundtrack, and unhappy, exhausted parents make for a less than exciting celebration.

Been there, done that.

Ugh.

Wanting kids, but not wanting to see their lives change as much as their married friends’ lives have, Julie and Jason hatch a brilliant plan: They’ll have a baby together, not get married, split every responsibility and expense right down the middle, and then resume their dating lives till they find Mr. and Ms. Right.

What could possibly go wrong?

If you’ve seen movies like Friends with Benefits (or countless others), you think you know how this movie will end. I won’t say you’re wrong (you’re not), but it’s to the credit of Westfeldt, who wrote the screenplay and is making her directing debut here, that the journey isn’t an easy or movie-friendly one.

Great chemistry

But it is an enjoyable one. The entire cast has great chemistry — no doubt because most of them are friends from Bridesmaids — even when some of them aren’t getting along on screen.

And it’s to the credit of Westfeldt that she also cast typically not-great actors like Ed Burns and Megan Fox to be the road blocks that stand between Julie and Jason getting together. While both are fine here (Fox especially), they just don’t fit with the rest of the crowd.

Westfeldt’s script, while it’s hampered by its inevitability, includes some smart observations about both single life and married life, and the witty banter breezes along for most of the film’s 110-minute length.

That said, eventually you just want these two to get together already, but Westfeldt is trying so hard to make a movie that won’t fit into the “seen it all before” model that she strings us along unnecessarily.

But I, for one, can forgive her for that. Friends with Kids is such a likable movie that I didn’t exactly mind the extended length.

(And, it should be noted, it’s good to be the director. There’s not a shot in this movie, not even when Julie is giving birth, where Westfeldt doesn’t look great.)

The bottom line

When friends have kids, it changes things. But when you still like the people with the kids, you learn to get over your frustrations about how things are different. I’m giving Friends with Kids a B+.

Have you seen this movie? Will you? share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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