Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) have a near perfect friendship. They’re the couple that join their friends but aren’t dating, giving the illusion to those observing that it’s three happy couples. Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm are Missy and Ben, their friends who at the beginning are passionately and love but fall more and more out of it as time goes on. Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd are Leslie and Alex, the other couple who are still in love but a bit weary because of the stress children have placed on them. Jason and Julie, realizing that time is of the essence and that they’re not getting any younger, opt to do what any friends would do without committing to one another: have a child.
Thus begets Friends With Kids, this year’s quirky indie comedy daring to get into the mainstream.
The film follows Jason and Julie during their wacky relationship as they have a child together and raise him as parents but not as romantic partners. It’s an unorthodox relationship as we see the two observe their friends go through marital distress while actively trying to both avoid it and enter the dating world For Jason it turns into a dancer by the name of Maryjane (Megan Fox) who seems to be his ideal match. Julie ends up being set up with Kurt (Edward Burns) and they have a bit of a connection as well.
The problem ends with the requisite happy ending, something Friends With Kids doesn’t seem to be aiming towards. The beauty of the film for the most part is that it takes a lot of the conventions of the romantic comedy genre and spins them around for a whirl. It’s kind of refreshing to see a film that has no qualms showing modern day parenthood as anything other than a light, breezy task. Friends with Kids feels unique because it’s about taking the conventions of a formula film and play with them a bit; we get to see the natural reaction of people as well as their real reaction when Jason and Julie discuss their plans as well as the amusing moments when they opt to consummate them.
The problem begins in the film’s final act, where it needs to find a happy ending. Skipping over one attempt early on, the film has a relentless angle to wrap everything up in a nice, neat bow and leave everyone happy. It’s a bit of a surprise because the film makes no qualms showing remarkably unhappy endings for characters outside of Julie and Jason; this is a film that’s trying to be a romantic comedy when it really functions much more like a romantic drama than anything else.
That’s the underlying issue the film has. It wants to be a romantic drama without any sort of qualms about it but wants a happy ending, like a romantic comedy, and as such it can’t have its cake and eat it too. What the film is aiming to go towards, and how it winds up, are two different things that don’t wind up existing well together.
For the most part Friends With Kids is an engaging and interesting film. Even a lackluster ending can’t tune it down significantly, though.
Writer / Director: Jennifer Westfeldt
Notable Cast: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns