For the most part, I don’t like romantic comedies. Great ones come along at times; (500) Days of Summer is an example. Even throughout the years good ones do come out, the not so great ones outnumber them by a long shot. Friends With Kids actually took me by surprise. It has a predictable story, and has some ingredients of your typical romantic comedy, but this was obviously made with much more ideas. Where most movies of this nature would fault, this one is smart enough to avoid them, or cleverly alter them. Before release, many road blocks were in the way of this movie. I’m glad it made it. Yeah, this isn’t best of the year quality, but Friends With Kids is consistently good all the way through.
Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) are longtime best friends; they almost have a brother and sister relationship. They are the last members of their circle of friends to settle down and have kids. They’ve noticed that the kids are cute, and the love is still there. But, their friends are a shell of their former selves. They don’t go out nearly as much, plus, their marriages are falling apart or loosely holding on. Both of them feel it’s the right time for a baby. So, they decide to have a kid while not being in a relationship together. It’s a win win – the joy of having a kid without the traps that usually come along with that. Their friends don’t really know what to think of it, but it’s to be expected. As all “foolproof” plans inevitably go, it’s easy and likely for them to fall apart from the seams.
The only thing that can elevate a romantic comedy above most is the screenplay. The supporting characters aren’t written special – just average. The two main characters, on the other hand, were handled extremely well. The interaction between both of them was the highlight for me. The back and forth conversations had some great dialog. Since you buy into the friendship in such a big way, the story is given more meaning. It is rare for a comedy not to have hit and miss syndrome. Of course, there is an exception to the rule at least two or so times a year; for the most part, though it’s an even split. The deciding factor is how bad are the missis and how big are the hits. Here, when it’s funny; it’s very funny. The jokes that fall flat never made me cringe. That’s always a plus. At times though the movie would hit a rough patch where the laughs were completely absent.
The direction was solid. Albeit, the story can be predictable; I liked the story and how it unfolded. The ending could have gone a different way. You can tell they played it a bit safe. The rest was good. I particularly liked how the relationships between Jason and Julie. Not just theirs, but the ones they have with other people. It gave context. I’m also glad that the story wasn’t filled with tons of subplots. Some comedies drift too far from their story; here it is focused. One subplot is touched on, however. It is brief almost to a fault. It seemed like it might have worked – the subplot involved Kristen Wiig and John Hamm’s characters. They should have kept the sole subplot or dispelled it. In the end, I felt teased. Many directional aspects caught me off guard. It’s not super clever, but it has its moments.
The acting ranges from passable to great. Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt both give pleasant performances. They make you like the characters – this is helped because of the chemistry the two have together. I haven’t seen either of them in a lead role aside from this. Adam Scott sort of seems to be a different version of a Paul Rudd. Scott is so likeable I can’t imagine not liking him in anything. That is where I see the comparison; at least for me. John Hamm and Kristen Wiig are the next best in the cast, but unfortunately aren’t given that much screen time. It was nice to see their serious side. Chris O’Dowd, Maya Rudolph, Megan Fox, Edward Burns, and the rest of the cast go through the motions. Bad performances were absent though. Half the casts of Bridesmaids are in here. I may be alone on this, but – Kristen Wiig aside – I wasn’t a fan of that cast. That might have had to do with me not being a big fan of Bridesmaids than not liking the actors though.
Jennifer Westfeldt deserves almost all the credit for this. She wrote, directed, starred and was one of the producers. I’ve never heard of her before this. I look forward to what she does next – especially in the writing department. There are problems and nitpicks I have, but this is one of the better comedy dramas I’ve seen this year. My main problem is that you would see a great ten minutes, then a very average ten minutes. It went back and forth for me. Nothing ever quite reached for me to truly love or hate anything. Everything could have been tighter, and this could have been really great. In my review of Wanderlust, I stated that it had some untapped potential. Friends With Kids deserves the claim more because if it was better, we would be looking at something in the race for the best of the year. Oh well; still, worth a look.