Actress and screenwriter Jennifer Westfeldt does an admirably job in her directing debut, Friends with Kids. The film is somewhat shallow and unrealistic in its depiction of New York yuppies, but is crisply written and acted by a banner ensemble cast. What starts out as a biting comedy pivots into heavy drama with the kind of rich dialogue actors relish delivering. Westfeldt and Adam Scott star as best friends that decide to have a baby to skip all the romantic entanglements. They have a Seinfeld-esque view of parenting and marriage that only exists in the fantasy world of celluloid. Maya Rudolph, Chris O' Dowd, Kristen Wiig, and John Hamm, are the other couples in their circle that have had families with varying success. Edward Burns and Megan Fox co-star as potential love interests.
The basic premise of this film and its expected conclusion is a bit formulaic. Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt's characters are inseperable. I can't believe that rational adults, who are this close as friends, could realistically believe having a child would not complicate their feelings. There are initial scenes where the pair are in bed with various lovers, scheming to get rid of them so they can hang out later. It's the portrait of people who are emotionally satisfied, but for whatever reason don't see each other in a sexual light.
As they embark on their procreation adventure, their friends, struggling to deal with their children and relationships; marvel at how they seem to be pulling off the grand experiment. These ensemble acting scenes are wonderful. Westfeldt's script leads her players to explore many emotional states. There's a climactic scene where the cast takes a vacation in Vermont that is pitch perfect. Honestly, I was on the fence until this scene, but she finally drops the shallowness of the beginning and engages the audience into some hard-hitting drama. The mood of the entire film then changes from light and fluffy to very serious. It's a fascinating turn that allows a broader exchange between the cast.
Westfeldt wears all the hats as writer, director, and lead actress. Her perfomance is good, but I do feel that she might have done better with another in the lead. Why? Because it is evident that she knows how to direct actors by the superb direction of the suporting cast. You can almost see her trying too hard to notch a top performance. A key to an excellent performance is how easily the actor fits into the role. I believe that she could have taken a breath, and instructed another capable lead to play that part more effortlessly. That may be a strange critique, but I think it's evident in some of her crying scenes.
Friends with Kids is a worthy endeavor. Westfeldt's writing is good and she does enough in her directing debut to warrant praise. I admired her transition from comedy to drama. That's not easily done, so she gets the golf clap for pulling it off. An interesting movie for couples to see, especially if they are thinking of having children. Westfeldt clearly illustrates the various hurdles in parenting and relationships...in the priviledged world of successful New Yorkers. I have a feeling this plot may not have worked if the characters flipped burgers in the projects.