Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm Consider ‘Friends with Kids’

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Jennifer Westfeldt created a distinct movie persona in her debut in 2001 in “Kissing Jessica Stein,” but she has been generally off the radar since then. Her choice for a major film re-emergence is as a nebbish career woman with less memorable character traits. She also directs Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox and Maya Rudolph in “Friends with Kids.”

The film is pure New York City fantasy. It presumes that old friends, played by Westfeldt and Adam Scott, can work out a deal to have a child and share the parenting responsibilities. The level of buy-in it takes for such a set up is the definition of a stretch, and the inevitable will-they-or-won’t-they premise has been severely used up on TV sitcoms. However, the screenplay that Westfeldt penned does not shy away from couples, marriage and raising kids, and has some good moments from Jon Hamm.

Single career gal Julie (Westfeldt) is part of a very close group of friends, including her long time buddy Jason (Adam Scott of TV’s “Parks and Recreation”). Her married friends include Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd), who are new parents and are still getting used to it. Ben (Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristen Wiig) are a hot couple, and can’t keep their hands off each other. Four more years go by, more kids are added to the mix of both couples, and only Julie and Jason are still single. Perplexed by the changes in relationships and lifestyles of their married brethren, the two uncoupled friends decide to have a kid and split the parenting time and responsibilities.

Adam Scott (Jason) and Jennifer Westfeldt (Julie) in “Friends with Kids’
Adam Scott (Jason) and Jennifer Westfeldt (Julie) in “Friends with Kids’
Photo credit: Jojo Whilden for Roadside Attractions

This arrangement throws a wrench into the other couples, as they contemplate their attraction to each other. Situations are further complicated when Jason starts dating a dancer named Mary Jane (Megan Fox) and Julie finds divorced father Kurt (Edward Burns). Ben and Missy begin to unravel, and tensions come to a head at a ski weekend gathering of all the various types of couples. At the same time, is it possible that Julie and Jason are becoming closer than friends?

It’s a strange mix of sitcom standards (which were played out to death on “Friends”) and surprisingly honest and uncomfortable confrontations regarding staying true in a relationship mixed with children. The key premise of a man and a woman friend who choose to have a child is unsound, especially the way it is shown to be effortless through their arrangement. Jason is on a casual date, for example, when Julie is giving birth, which is unbelievable because it is so stupidly casual. Also I think anybody with kids would dismiss the Sunday brunch scene shortly after the birth, where the unconventional parents put out a spread that would make a caterer jealous. This is the way it proves the arrangement works best? A decent selection of quiches?

But Westfeldt does shows a deft hand with the confrontational dialogue. This is where her longtime partner Jon Hamm gets his best scenes. Drunk at the ski lounge, he berates the perfection of Julie and Jason’s parenthood with some fairly truthful observations about relationships in general. This scene is one act play within the movie, and the only time in the story where something savory is happening.

It was perplexing why some of the talent Westfeldt was able to gather took their roles, beyond maybe friendship with the writer/director. Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd – who along with Hamm were in last year’s smash “Bridemaids” – don’t get enough screen time to warrant having them in the film, Wiig in particular is wasted. As a performer, there is no problem when you want to help a friend, but with a cast like the one she gathered there was an anticipation for something more that never emerged.

Kristen Wiig (Missy) and Jon Hamm (Ben) Play a Couple in “Friends with Kids’
Kristen Wiig (Missy) and Jon Hamm (Ben) Play a Couple in “Friends with Kids’
Photo credit: Jojo Whilden for Roadside Attractions

The movie also didn’t end as much as just peter out, like a long distance runner hitting the wall. Once the harsh confrontation takes place, there is one more good scene with Hamm (who got a lot of juicy bits in his girlfriend’s script, naturally) and then a predictable path begins to conclusion. Westfeldt, as opposed to her showy Jessica Stein role, is rendered as a symbolic prop in her own film.

It may be a time to put a moratorium on worldly, upper middle class New Yorkers proving that their kitschy lifestyle is morally above the conventions of normal society. There is nothing, it seems, that the atmosphere of the five boroughs can’t solve, including the future psychotherapy of the child born by two know-it-all friends.

“Friends with Kids” opens everywhere March 9th. Featuring Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd, Adam Scott and Edward Burns. Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2012 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

ziggy one of the best's picture

friend with kids

I’m sorry but its’ was not to my taste in fact its’ suck!!

Manny be down's picture

Friend

Its’ was good for a few laught but its’ got old

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