Friends With Kids (2011)
‘Making a decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body’
This is exactly the decision that Jason Fryman (Adam Scott) and Julie Keller (Jennifer Westfeldt) have to make in this ensemble comedy which is available to buy on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 12th, Friends with kids. Written and Directed by the leading lady herself Jennifer Westfeldt and supported by a seasoned and experienced cast including Jon Hamm, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig and Edward Burns this film aims to turn traditional parenting structures on their head.
Scott and Westfeldt play Jason and Julie, friends for whom life and love has not been the easiest of paths in comparison to their other mutual friends who are both settled down and expecting their first child. As the couples have children and their lives alter to accommodate them it’s clear that the group dynamic has changed, Jason and Julie witness first hand the destructive influence a child can have on a relationship. Cue an ingenious idea, they have a child together and share the responsibility of raising that child whilst attempting to find true love and happiness within other relationships. The idea is simple, it basically eradicates the inevitable ‘new parent’ fallouts and subsequent relationship destruction as they see it, bypassing all the misery and leaving only joy. Whilst they do not take the decision lightly and carefully consider all the possible repercussions they finally decide to go ahead with the idea, much to the frustration and confusion of their friends.
The first ten minutes of the film are achingly slow, a confused sequence of images showing characters with whom you have no connection and no idea as to who they are, but do not let that deter you. As the film progresses and the dynamic of the group becomes clear you begin to get a sense of the plot and of the characters, the sex obsessed couple, the content settled pair, the single paranoid, fragile female and the philandering male. The acting is very well executed and believable, the connection and friendship of the group shines well through the casts performances. The film itself could be classed as stereotypical in execution, certain scenes are textbook ‘American comedy’, the argument whilst arranging the pillows on the bed for example, or the disagreement in a restaurant, to name but a few. Whilst the accomplishment of Westfeldt is clear, writing, directing and starring in this comedy is a masterful feat, it is fairly apparent that she has played it safe when it comes to content. Rather than shoot for a blockbusting, genre quaking success she has tamed it down, kept it simple and relied on tried and tested formulas. There are however scenes that were very well executed, a particular scene involving an argument between members of the group is fantastically fraught with tension and emotion, certain scenes involving Chris O’Dowd and his on screen wife Maya Rudolph were brilliantly simple yet masterfully pieced together using the finest of acting prowess and comedic know how. It must also be noted that O’Dowd does a very fine job of speaking in an American accent, although I am unsure why there was a need for him to do so?
Billed as a comedy I have to say Friends with kids is not a laugh out loud style comedy, more a subtle giggle or a wry smile. Ideally suited to someone who finds the American Pie series of films distasteful and crude, this would then be perfect I believe. Whilst certain scenes work well on a comedy level I felt more as though I were watching a comedy/drama for most of it. Use of swearing is slightly over done to the point of being irritating and this detracts from what could otherwise be a humorous dialogue.
Overall I found Friends with kids an enjoyable film with some stellar performances and some well delivered scenes, whilst not a perfect film on every level, a good cast who maintain good relationships with one another aided it.
It is still early in the directorial career of Westfeldt and it is apparent that she is not only a talented actress but also a skilled film maker. One who just needs the experience and bravery to step slightly further out of the comfort zone and create something with her own individuality stamped hard and firm into it. I look forward to observing her future career as a film maker.
As I previously said Friends with kids is due for release on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 12th, and with that release come the usual bundle of extras, some entertaining blooper reels, deleted scenes and audio commentaries for the feature as well as certain extras which give insight into the thoughts and methods of production.
Director: Jennifer Westfeldt
Writer: Jennifer Westfeldt
Stars: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm
Runtime: 107 min