"It's never easy to put an independent film together." These are the words from co-producer of the film, Joshua Astrachan. As difficult as independent films like "Friends with Kids" may be to get finished, produced, and put up on the big-screen, it's the movies like this that always turn for the best. Ensemble cast comedies can work extremely well, but only if under the hand of a director/writer who knows what they're doing. More mainstream ensemble comedies like "Valentine's Day" and "New Year's Eve" just don't work and that's mostly due to the over-advertizing and tacky way of telling the story through telling, well, no story. "Friends with Kids" is a quiet, mature serio-comedy, and for that it's worth every single buck.
The concept to the storyline where "Friends with Kids" was found is quite interesting and totally gave me a new perspective on the film when walking in to see it: upmost respect. The most interesting subject around this ensemble cast is the fact that they really are all friends, just like in the movie. Jennifer Westfeldt and her partner, Jon Hamm came up with the idea for the film when all of their friends started disappearing from their lives once married life and starting families started to get in the way of things. Adam Scott, the lead actor of the film quoted that he and his wife had "become the worst of friends to Jen and Jon because we were so busy". Influenced by the idea, Westfeldt moved forward with the script and began shooting in 2012 in New York City.
Due to filming between seasons four and five of AMC's hit-series "Mad Men", Jon Hamm never actually partnered up with his real-life partner Jennifer Westfeldt in the movie. His filming of "Mad Men" and the money he gained from that did help lift the "Friends with Kids" project off the ground. Hamm may not be side-to-side with Jennifer Westfeldt in the film, but his small performance in the movie as a miserable husband to Kristen Wiig is probably the best acting out of the whole picture. One scene in the film really stands out and for that Hamm deserves a lot of recognition.
Jennifer Westfeldt took this project to extreme heights. Not only did she write the screenplay and direct the film but she also took a lead as the main love-interest as the film as well. Her sassy and mature screenplay certainly opens up a lot of great doors for her talent. "Friends with Kids" is not nearly as dumb, over-the-top, and repetitive as I had imagined and that mostly goes thanks to her impressive use of dialogue. The dialogue used in the film is so real that some of the table conversations between the cast feel like video-pieces filmed between takes. These realistic conversations in the film where the entire cast would come together to talk about their recent life adventures were certainly key highlights to the film's success.
Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt aren't partnered in real-life, but their chemistry in the movie is quite well. The last time I saw chemistry this well in a romantic-comedy was between Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in "Friends with Benefits", a film that may even be somewhat comparable in the storyline here. Adam Scott, whom I've never seen lead in a film before but have seen on the side in other projects, leads "Friends with Kids" extremely well. His performance is humorous, light, and dark all at once. Just about every performance in the film is believable and well-done. Hell, even Megan Fox does great in her fifteen minutes of screen-time.
Certainly some bushes that weave the plot around the film are a little silly. The film revolves around two best-friends of a large group (Almost similar to the "Friends" sitcom ensemble) who decide to get together and have a child since the rest of their friends have already done it and moved on with their lives. Jason and Julie (Scott and Westfeldt) gain influence from their four other best friends (both in a couple) who have gotten married, had children, and grown miserable in the past few years. What the two single New Yorkers struggling to find love decide to do is "skip through all the marriage bullsh*t and have a kid together". Because this is really going to drown all of your miserable problems of being alone away, right? Right.
When the baby is finally born the experiment that the two have created works out for the best and the two certainly believe that they have dodged a bullet with skipping out on all of the responsibilities of being married with a child. Here is when the clichés that drown all of the good from "Friends with Kids" comes along. When Julie and Jason both find their "soul-mates" not long after the birth of the baby, the two struggle to not only hide their true feelings away from each other, but also face the music from the mistake they made not realizing how difficult it would be to be a parent without the worries or cares.
Basically the message here is: Don't get married. Have a kid with your best friend. Then fall in love.
As interesting as this may be by just looking at it that way, "Friends with Kids" does meet a messy road that it struggles to turn off from. The only real good that comes from the film, like I already mentioned, are the excellent table-conversations between the ensemble cast (which includes four "Bridesmaids" cast members). The uses of dialogue in these scenes are just perfect and without these moments "Friends with Kids" would have just suffered along with other typical, mainstream romantic-comedies. Luckily, its dramatic tones take away from the garbage it could have easily been.
Thanks for the read!
-Written by Corey Wood