For the past couple of years, Kristen Wiig has gotten lots of air time by playing the same type of character on Saturday Night Live. I was pleasantly surprised to see that writer/director/star Jennifer Westfeldt gets Wiig, and the rest of the cast, to deliver a very earnest and heartbreaking performance.
Friends With Kids is about a group of friends who are all at new points of their lives. Ben and Missy (Jon Hamm and Wiig) are the married couple who are still passionate about each other; Leslie and Alex (Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd) are expecting their first baby; and Julie and Jason (Westfeldt and Adam Scott) enjoy being best friends and sharing stories of their sexual escapades with each other.
The focus shifts to Julie and Jason as they realize that they no longer see their married friends since they've all had kids. After going to a one year old's birthday party they begin discussing the merits of being parents, and decide that perhaps they should have a child together. The goal being that they will each continue enjoying their single lives, while sharing parenting duties.
Their friends feel that Julie and Jason have no idea what they're doing, while paying no attention to the fact that they aren't doing that well themselves. Julie and Jason move forward with their decision and have a child together. After seeing them with their baby, the group is a little disappointed to learn that they are doing incredibly well at being parents.
After adjusting their lives - and their apartments - to having a child, they begin getting back in the dating scene. Jason begins seeing Mary Jane (Megan Fox), and Julie is introduced to Kurt (Edward Burns). They each feel that perhaps they've now found the ideal mates, while glimpses of jealousy begin to show as well. While it is no surprise to have Edward Burns deliver while playing a romantic interest, Fox surprises with a great performance as Jason's new love interest. It's obvious that she fits the role of the bombshell Jason begins dating, but Fox makes her stand out by giving Mary Jane a personality that makes you understand why he continues seeing her.
Everyone's friendship plateaus with a New Years ski trip they take as a group. At dinner, Jon Hamm and Adam Scott deliver one of the movies best scenes while they argue about parenting. This allows us to see a side of Kristen Wiig that we're not used to seeing on screen, and I loved it.
Quite often in an ensemble comedy, you notice that the actors are trying to hard to pretend they're all friends. In Friends With Kids, their friendship is never second-guessed. Neither are the relationships. All of the couples are cast perfectly, which can be seen in how they play off of each other in scenes where they discuss Julie and Jason. I do wish that we would have seen more of the transition for these couples from having no kids, to the insanity that is parenthood.
Jennifer Westfeldt has given audiences a great treat with Friends With Kids. She has done a fantastic job at pulling triple duty on this movie by writing, directing and starring in the movie. This is a task that not many people can do, let alone do it so well. Her script is filled with a lot of honesty, and as a director she pulls great performances out of her stars..including herself.
Friends With Kids is proof that having a great script with a great cast is much better then assuming audiences want 12 actors in a movie named after a holiday. The comedy of the movie is not lost in the dramatic scenes that play out. They feed off of each other and give us one the best romantic comedies I've seen in a long time.
Friends With Kids opens in theaters today, and is rated R for sexual situations and strong language.
What say you?
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