Saturday, March 10, 2012
Producer: Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Joshua Astrachan, Jake Kasdan, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Westfeldt
Cast: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Fox and Edward Burns
Raunchy Indie Comedy
1 hours, 47 minutes
Jennifer Westfeldt first gained acclaim with her role as the titular character in Kissing Jessica Stein which she co-wrote with her co-star Heather Juergensen. Next, she wrote and starred in Ira and Abby, which also explored the world of relationships. With Friends with Kids, she completes a relationship trilogy by performing quadruple duty as writer, director, producer and star of the film and acquits herself admirably.
It might appear at first that Friends with Kids is yet another in the same vein as last year's interchangeable comedies No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits. Even the titles share some similarity, but instead of sex without commitment it would deal with raising a child without commitment.
But the idea for Friends with Kids grew out Westfeldt and partner Jon Hamm noticing that friends were having kids and dropping out of their lives. The film has Jason (Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation) and his best friend Julie (Westfeldt) watch in dismay as their married friends become anti-social and bitter. Their solution to avoiding that messiness of marriage and divorce is to skip past it and just have a child together free of any relationship baggage.
It's too bad that the title and the promotional spots both telegraph that premise. As a result, the first act drags somewhat. It takes twenty-odd minutes for Jason and Julie to come up with the idea that we fully expect from the beginning. Fortunately, there are some good laughs along the way. The supporting cast of Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd – all plucked from Bridesmaids – provide solid work as the increasingly unhappy couples with children.
Once they decide to have a child together, the story takes off. Megan Fox and Edward Burns play their respective love interests and bolster the already impressive cast. There are a good deal of smart and touching moments as well as funny ones. Occasionally the humour pushes a little too far and seems forced and raunchier than it needs to be. But it more than makes up for it with some great scenes, especially one where all the couples gather for dinner at a winter cabin.
It is a shame that the ending is somewhat conventional and predictable. Yet it is understandable given the general tone of the film, and the realities of the North American market. When it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, the public response was quite enthusiastic.
In spite of any unevenness, this is an accomplished work especially for a debut. And as there are so few women directors, Westfeldt is to be applauded for her tremendous work, wearing four hats no less. Let's hope that this marks the beginning of a new directorial voice and that Westfeldt goes on to make many more features after this.