Jennifer Westfeldt brings heart and laughs to Friends with Kids

We are lucky to be living in a time when comedy feels more like real life and less like bubble gum. Jennifer Westfeldt’s directorial debut, Friends with Kids, is a melange of comedy and drama about modern parenting, love, and the possibilities of having the whole cake to oneself. It lands somewhere among Away We Go, Crazy, Stupid, Love and yes, Bridesmaids, if only for its stars.

Westfeldt writes, directs and stars in Friends with Kids as Julie, a 30-something single Manhattanite whose best friend Jason (a terrific Adam Scott) is happily obsessed with generous bosoms and long legs. The two are the odd couple in their circle of friends. Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd), who is six years her junior, are pregnant with their first kid. Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm) can’t keep their hands off each other, rushing off to restaurant bathrooms while their friends mingle over drinks. The dynamics change when four years later, Leslie and Alex are full-on parenting, and Missy and Ben have just had their first newborn, fighting over whose turn it is to feed the baby. Julie and Jason are still single, but both are a bit baby-crazy, Julie especially. When they see how “mean” and crazy their friends have become, they decide that the kids are probably what’s putting a strain on their relationships. So they come up with an idea: why not have a kid with your best friend, share custody, and keep children out of the romantic equation? Although the idea seems ridiculous to their buddies, soon Jason meets the “tiny dancer with a huge rack” he’s been waiting for (Megan Fox), and Julie hooks up with a handsome divorced man named Kurt (Ed Burns). Both “commit to the baby half of the time,” and things seem great. But friendship and parenthood have their traps.

There is no need to mention that the cast is great; that’s clear from the get-go. Wiig reunites with most of her Bridesmaids castmates, and there is a remarkable chemistry between all of them. But the soul of the movie is in the main characters; Westfeldt and Scott are hilarious and real. While Westfeldt is a well-established writer and actor (most notably for the 2001 comedy Kissing Jessica Stein), Scott is best known for his role on Parks and Recreation, and has not had the daunting task of being the star of a film until now. “I was sitting next to Kristen Wiig, and I was just like ‘I wonder if she thinks I suck.’ It was hard not to be intimidated at that table,” he recently told Entertainment Weekly about shooting one of the climactic scenes in the movie, when a fight emerges between his character and Hamm’s. Kristen Wiig as Missy is the saddest character in the movie. As a miserable hard-drinking wife, Wiig is given the chance to play a role she’s never done before. Rudolph and O’Dowd provide some of the biggest laughs, and they are a joy to watch.

Yes, the movie follows the typical romantic comedy scheme, but it does it ever so gracefully.  The dialogue is raunchy, without being of the Judd Apatow calibre, but enough to earn the movie its R rating. It is a grownup’s comedy about grownup issues. Westfeldt, who has been dating Hamm for 15 years without marriage or children, based the story on their own experiences with their married friends. “It becomes increasingly difficult to keep the one-on-one friendships exactly as they were because so much of your friends’ lives becomes kid-centric,” she told EW. Friends with Kids is full of heart. You’ll fall in love with it.

5/5

By Radina Papukchieva

Follow me on twitter @Papukchieva

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About Radina Papukchieva

Radina Papukchieva came to live in, be consumed by, and love Montreal in 2003 from Bulgaria, with her mother and little sister. She is still a semester away from graduating from Concordia University, where she is doing a double major in journalism and communication and cultural studies, as well as a minor in film studies. Her interests include film, TV, and popular culture. And Woody Allen. She is a film writer for CultMontreal.com and co-creator of The Cafe Phenomenon. Her list of inspirational people includes Tina Fey, primarily. Among her other interests are music, art, literature, and of course, food. Her film reviews have appeared in The Concordian and The Mirror.

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