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Friends with Kids (2012)

September 6, 2012

VERDICT:
7/10 New Normals

When Harry knocked up Sally…

Friends with Kids is about a thirtysomething guy and a thirtysomething girl who have been uber-platonic best friends for almost 20 years. They date around (not with each other) and they enjoy their single lives, right up until all their friends start getting hitched and cranking out newborns. The more time they spend with their friends, they come to a realization: boy, it’d be great to have kids, but if only there were away to avoid the hassles of married life. Sex once a month, fighting all the time? No thank you very much. And since 30 is the new 50 (I guess), they come up with a solution before her biological clock gives out: crank out a newborn, raise it together, all while staying uber-platonic best friends. That way they get to keep all the perks of bachelor/bachelorettehood and have a totally awesome kid. Everybody wins, right? Well as smooth as it all goes initially, life starts getting complicated as their Swiss watch of a plan stops being the sure thing they intended it to be.

Shocker.

Not the most realistic or relatable of scenarios I’ve ever come across in a movie, but then again, what do I know? The nuclear family is a thing of the past, and stranger families have been structured. Hell, we live in a world where Junior might as well be a documentary. Nevertheless, if you’ve already guessed how this story plays out, then pat yourself on the back because you, sir or madam, are dead on. They have a kid, everything’s good; they see other people, new emotions start forming; one wants to give it a shot, the other’s not on board; everything’s bad, cue the epiphanies. Sorry if I just spoiled anything, but it’s hard to call ’em spoilers when you already know what’s coming.

Anyway, the interesting thing about this new age love story is that it’s actually been done before, albeit briefly. For those who’ve seen The Big Chill, you probably know what I’m talking about. For those who haven’t, it involves Kevin Kline getting down with his friend Mary Kay Place so she can have herself a baby before her lady parts give out…only this time it’s drawn out to 107 minutes. Far and away the weirdest scene of that movie, and almost 30 years later, it’s still pretty progressive (if that’s even the right word). But the nice thing about Friends with Kids is that writer/director/leading lady Jennifer Westfeldt is on the level. It takes a good deal of convincing to even get our stars on board with the idea, and once they start spreading the good news, everyone thinks they’re nuts. Smart move, Westfeldt, ’cause babies in the friend zone is one of the all-time leaders in terms of stupid-ass ideas.

But the novelty of the premise and the cookie-cutter plot aren’t what make this work. That much is obvious, and at the very least, they serve their purpose. This is one of those movies where most of the fun comes from sitting back and listening. Westfeldt’s a swell actress to begin with, but without a doubt, her strong suit’s behind the camera. She’s got a real knack for writing sharp, witty dialogue and her cast has a real knack for delivering it. On top of that, the editing in this movie is fantastic and does an incredibly effective job of controlling the tone and the tempo throughout. Rare to see editing that has such a strong sense of humor. Really impressive in its own right, outrageously impressive for a rom-com. Had me smiling a whole lot and chuckling right along.

Alright, I’ll shut up about the editing. Let’s move onto the ridiculous cast.

As a diehard fan of Parks and Rec, it’s kind of a rule that I should like Adam Scott. But even if I was a total idiot and wasn’t a fan of the funniest show on TV, it’d be hard to ignore Scott’s inherent likability along with his unusually natural rapport with Westfeldt. The chemistry’s there, they carry the movie handily, and it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to picture these two as buds off-camera. Always nice with these kinds of situations.

And then there’s the rest of the gang, which is pretty much the cast of Bridesmaids, minus Melissa McCarthy and plus Megan Fox. Kinda weird seeing Kristen Wiig play against-type for a change, but Chris O’Dowd, Maya Rudolph, and Jon Ham are all here doing what they do best. There’s really not a weak link in the chain, including Megan Fox. The girl holds her own, and more than anything, it’s just nice to see her taking roles like these after being doomed to a life of eye candy for the last five years.

And guess what? Ed Burns is here, too! Totally wasn’t paying attention to the opening credits when his name ran across the screen, so boy was it a nice surprise to see him show up. Nothing all that new for him as far as career choices go, but I like Ed Burns a lot, and I truly don’t get why he doesn’t do more movies. Dude’s the total package and he’s all New York to boot. Man, I’ve got all kinds of time for Ed Burns.

Although if there’s one big gripe that can’t be overlooked, it’s the ending. The last time I saw a movie written by Jennifer Westfeldt was Kissing Jessica Stein, and while that might not have ended on the most organic of notes, it certainly ended with an unforeseen bang. So given the cookie-cutter plot that leads up to the last ten minutes here, I was hoping for the unforeseen. But when the credits started to roll and the first thought that went through my head was, “That’s it?,” it was only then that I realized the bang I was hoping for was just a mere whimper. Very sad. It’s not a bad ending per se, it just didn’t need to tie on the ribbon so neatly.

Friends with Kids was one of those unfortunate movies that’d been collecting dust in its Netflix slip since it came in the mail two months ago. And truth be told, the only reason I watched it was ’cause I couldn’t stand to look at it any more. But having finally gotten around to it, I’m glad that I didn’t take the easy way out by sending it back unwatched. It’s a unique take on a tired formula that benefits greatly from those involved. If it were out to make us believers – the weirdos who aren’t thinking of impregnating our besties – I don’t think it would have gotten too far. Thank heavens that wasn’t the case because the end result was far more enjoyable than I thought it would be. In fact, that’s probably the most unpredictable thing this has going for it. Still not really sure what I was meant to take away from this that I didn’t already learn from Rob Reiner, but for some reason, that’s alright. Good dialogue goes a long way, I guess.

And having just moved out of Manhattan myself to the great green yonder in Vermont, holy crap did this make me homesick. Westfeldt captures the city in a truly gorgeous light, and I was totally unprepared for all the scenes in my old ‘hood. Can hardly blame her though. The Upper West Side’s where it’s at.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2012 8:59 pm

    Interesting review – I saw Bridesmaids, liked it enough, but this one looks like my type of movie. A little bit more honest, I see.

  2. September 8, 2012 6:28 pm

    I’ve been a fan of Adam Scott since his 2008 Starz show Party Down. It was interesting to see him in a lead role, particularly one centered around a star-studded cast.

    • September 10, 2012 2:17 pm

      Dude, I really need to watch Party Down. Started the first season, but the wife couldn’t really get into it. Heard AWESOME things about Season 2 though, will have to amend this situation. And I thought he was pretty solid here, especially considering who he was acting alongside.

  3. September 11, 2012 8:10 pm

    hey, so we kinda agree on this. i liked this film. didn’t love it, but there’s plenty to like about it. loved the cast and some good writing here and there.

    • September 12, 2012 7:27 pm

      Well hey now! Whaddayaknow?! Strikes me as your kinda movie. Always happy to find some common ground on these matters.

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