A review of FRIENDS WITH KIDS
Note: This review is written by Em, who loved the movie FRIENDS WITH KIDS.
It’s really hard to talk about the new movie FRIENDS WITH KIDS (written, directed, produced by, and starring Jennifer Westfeldt of KISSING JESSICA STEIN) without a massive plot spoiler, because the closing line is one of the dirtiest, funniest, most romantic things I’ve heard in years. It manages to be simultaneously shocking and completely expected. It fulfills every rom-com cliche in the book and yet still made me — who has been a sex writer for more than a decade — blush. It’s filthy, and I’ll shut up now before I spoil it. (Anthony Lane, writing in the New Yorker, had no such qualms, in case the curiosity is killing you. He neither got, nor particularly cared for, the movie — so I guess he figured plot spoilers were fair game.)
Anyway, I wasn’t convinced I’d like this movie, because according to the reviews I’d read (and a few friends who’d read the script or seen early screenings), I was the “target” audience in the literal sense. Meaning, I am married with kids and I got here the conventional way — fell in love, got married, got knocked up. The basic concept of the movie is that two best buds — played by Jennifer Westfeldt and Adam Scott — hit their thirties and want kids, but are horrified by how breeding has changed their married friends for the worse. In their view, parenting kills all the romance and makes people mean, so why not separate the two things? They decide to raise a kid together as best buds while continuing to romance (and screw) other people. Reviews and friends warned me that I’d want to walk out of the movie theater, that I’d feel pummeled and belittled by the movie. Well, maybe I have a really thick skin, or a really good sense of humor, or just a deep sense of denial — whatever it is, I found the movie hilarious.
Because in the end — though Jennifer Westfeldt has made a habit of questioning conventional relationships in her movies like KISSING JESSICA STEIN, IRA AND ABBY, and now FRIENDS WITH KIDS — there’s nothing particularly shocking about this movie. (Okay, except that last line. FYI, one of the producers of the movie, Lucy Barzun Donnelly, said in a Q&A after the movie that some potential financiers asked if that line could be removed, and Westfeldt insisted it would work, even if it looked impossibly crass on the page.) The movie is mostly about how adults behave when a kid enters the picture — the choices we make about how we will treat each other when we are exhausted and miserable and seriously regretting the entire breeding operation. Those scenes of spousal sniping rang hilariously true — though, again, maybe they’re only hilarious to me because I am in deep denial that I was ever that bad.
Also, I kind of bought the theory that two best friends who agree to split all parenting duties down the middle, 50-50, may have an easier time of things, at least at first. It’s just a lot more organized and easier to delineate responsibilities than the far more vague set-up and agreement to “switch off” that most traditional couples have. As for separating sex and parenting? Well, no plot spoilers here, but let’s just say that this movie doesn’t exactly make a convincing case that this is either possible or even preferable. I don’t think the movie even tries to do that. In the end, it’s a smart, funny, mostly-by-the-book romantic comedy, and I’m a sucker for those. I laughed, I cried (really) and I enjoyed it so much that I’m even willing to forgive the filmmakers for ruining my Don Draper fantasy forever. Seriously, will Jon Hamm’s agent please tell him not to take any role unless it calls for slicked-back hair and a flinty gaze?
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