"It's like...she's one of my limbs."
I've been married now for about a year, and my wife and I are one of the few in our "group" that have taken the plunge. In most circles, after marriage, children are the next logical step. We're not there yet, but we do have a dog, and he's still alive, which makes me feel good about our chances of raising a human. Where I'm going with all of this is that my friend Nikki says that once we have a kid, we're getting dumped from the crew because we won't have time for anyone but our offspring. An awkward segue if there ever was one, but the addition of children into a group dynamic is the loose basis to writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt's new film, FRIENDS WITH KIDS.
Jason and Julie are thirty-something best friends, living in the same apartment complex in Manhattan. They call one another at all hours, chewing up hours on the phone discussing past flings and their preferred ways to die. Jason and Julie are played by Adam Scott and Westfeldt. An excellent pairing--mostly during the first two acts. Scott natural snideness is a perfect contrast to Westfeldt's charming naïveté. It's only when the narrative forces the two (especially Scott) to gush, does the story hit a snag.
Jason and Julie are joined by Missy and Ben (Kristin Wiig and Jon Hamm), and Leslie and Alex (Maya Rudolf and Chris O'Dowd)--a pair of married couples seemingly drowning in bliss. Miss and Ben are especially nauseatingly cute. At one point at dinner, they excuse themselves to fuck in the bathroom. They're that PDA twosome that you can't stand to watch, but can't help but be jealous of how much they're into each other. (Just kidding. I can't stand that shit.)
After seeing the happiness that the others share, Jason and Julie come up with the pretty ridiculous idea to have a baby together, while sharing half the custody, and therefore half the responsibility. To everyone's surprise their plan kind of works. Missy, Ben, Leslie and Alex stop over for a vist expecting utter chaos. Instead, they're treated to a well-balanced familial evening.
A majority of the cast from last year's gross-out comedy Bridesmaids have returned. In many respects, FRIENDS and BRIDESMAIDS are related--each touching on partnership, affection, and growing up. Though, while FRIENDS plays the role of caring mother, BRIDESMAIDS is undoubtedly the second cousin who peddles drugs to minors. Wiig stands out, but not in the way you think. She plays Missy on an emotional level unknown to her viewers up until this point. The harnessed portrayal allows Rudolph and O'Dowd to steal the comedic show; their marriage is by far the funniest, and also the most stable and balanced. Megan Fox (surprisingly effective), and Ed Burns pop in as Jason and Julie's significant others, although their welcomed presence is abruptly ceased, and they disappear without much of an explanation. As it should be, the potency of the film weighs heavily on the performances and believability of its two leads. And Scott and Westfeldt are largely successful, for a while anyway.
Marriage isn't easy. If a couple tells you so, they're either unfathomably favored, or lying. Along with Heather Juergensen, Westfeldt was the writer behind 2001's KISSING JESSICA STEIN--a spot-on depiction of what love and heartbreak entails. Here, I wish that Westfeldt had decided on either comedy or drama. As it is, the finished product has its moments, but ultimately when the two genres mix, it creates an awkward creation that culminates with one of the worst endings in recent memory. Westfeldt attempts to make the audience care about what happens these characters and their goings-on, but when the plot of TRON seems more plausible, it's difficult to connect.