Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids is an atypical romantic comedy that takes a stab at what causes fairy-tale weddings to end in a train wreck.

Even before American author John Grey’s bestselling book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus became the source of inspiration for countless Hollywood romantic-comedies, Doris Day and Rock Hudson came out with a string of ‘Battle of the Sexes’ films during the early 1960s. Cut to present-day and the battle is still raging. From When Harry Met Sally (1989) to last year’s Academy award winning Silver Linings Playbook, Hollywood’s fascination with the boy-meets-girl premise continues to flourish. While relationship counsellors like John Grey and Deepak Chopra may have inadvertently set the tone for present-day romantic comedies, American actress and screenwriter Jennifer Westfeldt has gone a step further by fictionally documenting the chaos that follows after the happy ending scripted in romantic comedies.

Essentially, Friends With Kids is an atypical romantic comedy that takes a stab at what causes fairy-tale weddings to end in a train wreck. According to debut director Westfeldt, the magic ends soon after the arrival of a baby. In illustrating this theory, we meet Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt), best friends who are instinctively aware of the ins and outs of each other. In their late 30s, they are single but successful upper-working class New Yorkers who can afford hundred-dollar dinner plates at fancy restaurants and fifty-dollar cab rides thereafter to their comfortable Manhattan apartments. Their circle of friends include married couples Ben and Missy (Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig), and Alex and Leslie (Chris O’Dowd and Maya Rudolph). When their friends become parents, baby poo hits the fan. To their horror, Jason and Julie’s friends are reduced to mean, stressed out people spring loaded with insults and contempt. Realising that their own biological clocks are ticking, Jason and Julie decide to have a baby while maintaining a platonic relationship to avoid the pitfalls of their married friends. Everything goes according to plan, including shared upbringing of their child, but when they start dating other people, their relationship as best friends stand to be tested.

Conceptually, Friends With Kids is somewhere in the same league as Friends With Benefits (Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis), with one difference — Westfeldt’s narrative is an unconventional take as an honest and often harsh reality on how child rearing can throw a spanner into the cogs and wheels of marriage. Sure, there are couples that may not agree with this story, but I can also think of many couples who will find this film more of an eye-opener than a romantic-comedy. On that topic, the story here is pretty straight-faced for the most part; so don’t expect any of the Farrelly Brothers’ slapstick humour or Judd Apatow’s crude sexuality. That being said, guest appearances by Edward Burns and Megan Fox spice things up a bit when both our leading characters carry on with some pre-agreed promiscuity. Characterization is almost spot-on with Scott and Westfeldt holding up the story with a good level of plausibility. There is that familiar arrogance in Scott’s character yet it somehow works by intentionally negating chemistry between the leads.

Much of the story is steadily paced with witty conversations and analogical scenarios but the film is not without some glaring questions; the biggest one being: Is it really possible for best friends to procreate without any emotional attraction? Sadly, the answer to that question lies in the tapered and clichéd ending and as such, Friends With Kids ends up losing some of its originality by imploding on its own ethos. And trust me, if Billy Crystal saw this movie, he would have seen the ending a mile away.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.