Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reverend's Reviews: You've Got to Have Friends

As often as naive high school seniors pledge to "stay friends forever" and tell their besties "don't ever change" in their yearbooks, the harsh reality is that friendships do change over time. This is especially true once spouses/partners and children enter the picture.

Writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt captures the evolution of longtime friendships well in her new dramedy, Friends with Kids, which opens tomorrow. Westfeldt is best known in LGBT circles as the star of 2002's lesbian romance Kissing Jessica Stein. She also stars in her current film as Julie, a successful, single Manhattanite happy with her intimate but non-sexual relationship with similarly successful, single best friend, Jason (Adam Scott of TV's Parks and Recreation). Horrified as they are by the deteriorating marriages of their longtime friends Ben and Missy (Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig) and Alex and Leslie (Chris O'Dowd and Maya Rudolph) following the births of their respective children, Julie and Jason decide to have a child together the natural way without making an exclusive commitment to each other.

Though their friends are publicly supportive but privately offended initially by Julie and Jason's decision, they are impressed and eventually jealous of the non-traditional family once Jason and Julie's baby is born. The new parents' bliss proves short lived, however, once Jason falls for a hot Broadway dancer (the ever-hot Megan Fox) and Julie is drawn to a recently divorced man played by a surprisingly hunky Edward Burns, director-star of such popular indies as The Brothers McMullen and She's the One.

Friends with Kids is honest and frequently very funny even if the humor sometimes feels forced. Unspooling like a younger, raunchier Woody Allen film, especially in light of its lovingly-shot NYC setting, it is also representative of the growing genre of crude big-screen comedies like last year's hit Bridesmaids that focus on women. Speaking of Bridesmaids, Friends with Kids serves as a mini-reunion of its cast, notably Wiig, Rudolph, Hamm (who is also Westfeldt's real-life, longtime partner) and O'Dowd, who winningly played Bridesmaids' bewildered Irish cop. Their latest effort is better, smarter and less gross-out (despite a scene involving Jason and his infant's explosive diarrhea) than the somewhat overrated Bridesmaids.

"We don't know those people," Jason confesses to Julie at one point after witnessing their friends' at their worst. We can all be tempted at times to say the same of our longtime friends as all our lives lengthen and develop. Challenging and touching in equal measure, perhaps most especially during its potentially polarizing final scene, Friends with Kids makes for worthwhile adult viewing... especially for those with children.

Reverend's Rating: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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