Thursday, 21 June 2012

Film Review - "Friends With Kids" directed by Jennifer Westfeldt

Friends With Kids (2012)   ★ ★ ★ 1/2

It's not your typical family-friendly chick flick or romantic comedy, but Friends With Kids is both an entertaining and emotional watch. The story starts with a New York band of six friends, living the sexy childless life in Manhattan but after the characters hit their late 20s, it's a confusing mishmash of uncontrollable children and disillusionment. Two of the group Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt, also wrote and directed the film) and Jason (Adam Scott) decide to have a child together, while avoiding the difficulties of being together. The dialogue starts out witty and sardonic, with the pair realising the gritty reality that is early married life with children. Some scenes are in a sense overplayed, mother Leslie (Bridesmaid's Maya Rudolph) for one is for the most part a shrieking, hormonal mess and her counterpart Missy (Kristen Wiig) a drunk, depressed mute with a constant scowl. However, the film makes its point in focusing acutely on family strife and how kids change the dynamics of all close relationships.

The film's nearly exclusively set in Manhattan apartments - apart from the token ski trip to Vermont - and the domestic settings are a perfect opportunity to closely examine the nuances of everyday dialogue and action in the typical modern home. Almost a less funny version of television's Modern Family, Westfeldt brings a relatively feminist view to the parenting role. The women are highly emotional and out of control while the men seem to be clueless about their children and homely duties. Missy's husband Ben (John Hamm) brings a ruthless take on the inevitable disappointment of adult life, and his strong role seems to carry most of the film's messages. On the other hand, boyish father Alex (Chris O'Dowd) can be a bit immature but is not as irritating as his character's wife, played by Rudolph.

The ending is somewhat unsatisfactory and abrupt but the film is a good starting point for other more satirical, dialogue-led family films. There's a rollercoaster of emotions, ultimately a comedy, the film has its surprisingly tragic moments as well. It's simply worth seeing to watch Julie and Jason's experiment unfold throughout the story. 

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