By Jessica Delfanti | March 7, 2012
Director: Jennifer Westfeldt
Writer: Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Chris O’Dowd, Maya Rudolph, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Ed Burns, Megan Fox
Among even the greatest women of today’s Hollywood, quadruple threats are almost unheard of. Jennifer Westfeldt sets a shining example as lead actress, screenwriter, director, and producer of her fantastic new film, Friends with Kids.
True to its name, the film centers on a group of adult friends that encounter the ups and downs of having children. Julie (Westfeldt) and her best friend Jason (Adam Scott) decide to have a child together after discovering, to their horror, the fates of their married friends after childbirth. Despite plans for a platonic arrangement, the experience leads to tangled emotional states and profoundly funny and delightful scenes.
An entire review could be devoted to the film’s extraordinary cast. Kristen Wiig, cast prior to Bridesmaids, is a mother mourning the once fiery passion of her marriage. She plays her part with a wry but understated melancholy with surprisingly dexterity. Wiig’s onscreen husband and Westfeldt’s long term beau, Jon Hamm, is amusingly cast in the film’s most unlikable role, and performs a stage worthy monologue that is one of the script’s most engaging moments. Hamm brings all the dark magnetism of Don Draper and the humor of Dr. Drew Baird to the character, creating a sad, swarthy creature that ties the film together in a pivotal way.
Opposite the suffering duo, Westfeldt sketches out a more down to earth couple played by Maya Rudolph and the scene stealing Chris O’Dowd. Rudolph is sarcastic, witty, and underused, but her meager lines are some of the film’s best. O’Dowd, as her teddy bear husband, has impeccable comic timing and a rare sincerity, an everyman likability that lightens every scene he participates in.
Finally, Scott and Westfeldt’s interaction is so organic and charming that it feels real and alluring in a way that is rarely, if ever, seen in romantic comedies. Scott is the brittle, snarky best friend; Westfeldt is the self-deprecating, sweetly smiling and sharply funny best friend. Together, they make a pair that exchanges lines whip-crack fast, acts with eyes and hands, and seems heartwarmingly real.
Westfeldt once again brings her unique voice and tone to an impeccably written film. The characters feel and sound authentic, even if they are probably funnier and smarter than most real people. More importantly, she continues a focus on relationships that refuse to be conventional and attempt things that go against type and trend. Her romantic comedies do not involve races to the airport, manic pixie dream-girls, rainy climactic kisses, or karaoke. Instead, she supplies the real charm of relationships: their unpredictability, their surprises, their pitfalls and speed bumps, and the intimacy that comes with weathering the greatest storms. By supplying such anti-romantic comedy narratives, Westfeldt actually manages to make the best in the genre.
Friends is fresh, sharp, and begs the question: if this film can be made for what Westfeldt describes as “a fraction of what the lead of a standard romantic comedy would usually make,” then why aren’t there more great films like this?
Viewers with a desire to support great film, as well as women that play roles off-screen and onscreen in the industry, should head to their closest theater to see Friends with Kids. Because, as the film teaches us, little gestures go a long way.