- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Roadside Attractions
Reviewed by David Medsker
riends with Kids” is an anomaly in a number of ways. The concepts of love, marriage and parenthood, and how they ebb and flow at different times, are incredibly complex, and Jennifer Westfeldt’s script, which she also directed, handles them admirably, asking the tough questions while maintaining a light tone in the dialogue. At the same time, the movie is a fairy tale; the two main characters do something that no two people should ever, ever do, and the ending bridges a wide emotional gap that is hard to overlook. Even if you’re happy about how things turn out, it feels like a cheat.
Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt), who have been best friends since college, are watching their married friends take the plunge into parenthood with a mixture of amusement (they don’t have sex anymore!) and sadness (they don’t have sex anymore!). Jason and Julie want kids as well, but since they’re both single, they’re years away from starting a family in the traditional manner, which gives Jason an idea: they should have a child together, thinking that their relationship – unlike their sexless married friends – will not change, and each will be free to date around. At first, the plan works great, but once Jason gets serious with buxom dancer Mary Jane (Megan Fox) and Julie does the same with divorced dad Kurt (Ed Burns), each of them discovers that they are much more emotionally involved than they ever realized.
The Handshake Deal is a popular plot device in movies – usually it involves getting married if you haven’t met The One by a certain age – but it’s just that: a device. If you loved the person enough to marry them, you would marry them. Now bring children into the equation, and an impetuous decision becomes borderline monstrous. How emotionally messed up will that kid be when they grow up, watching their parents with a revolving door of lovers? It’s difficult not to think about this while watching the movie, even though you just know that baby Joe will be spared from his parents’ foolish plan.
Adam Scott jumps to the next level here. He’s played the friend or the villain up to this point, but he’s immensely likable as the romantic lead, and delivers a far more nuanced performance than the guys who are currently raking in the rom-com roles. Westfeldt has carved out a nice but quiet career for herself while her longtime boyfriend (that would be Jon Hamm) is hosting “Saturday Night Live,” but this movie serves as quite the resume booster. Yes, the premise of the story is absurd, but Westfeldt gets solid work from the entire cast (though Chris O’Dowd should work a little more on his American accent), writes good but grounded dialogue, and gives the characters some depth. The smartest thing about Westfeldt’s script, though, is that there are no villains. It would have been easy to give Mary Jane and Kurt some crippling weakness, but Westfeldt does no such thing. Good for her.
“Friends with Kids” is probably going to be overlooked by the masses, and that is both understandable and a shame. It would be nice to see characters like this in broader romantic comedies (or even romantic dramas), but what would have been really nice is to see a better foundation for these characters to play on. The movie survives its sizable flaws though, thanks to a lot of heart and winning performances by its lead actors.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Behold, the indie rom-com that plans a budget for a bunch of extras for when their film hits the video market. "Friends with Kids" is filled with good stuff, and while it may be typical of other comedy videos – deleted scenes, ad libs, the making-of featurette – there is quality stuff in each of these. Even better, they get director Jennifer Westfeldt and her boyfriend/producer Jon Hamm to contribute an audio commentary. The child actors even get their own bit, which mostly consists of them not wanting to act on cue, but hey, they're kids. The funniest bit, though, is Megan Fox's character Mary Jane belittling Adam Scott for not knowing how to play video games. If you missed this one during its brief theatrical run, it's definitely worth a look.