In her first directorial effort and her third screenplay, actress Jennifer Westfeldt has crafted a film that has the look and feel of a modern, feminist Woody Allen film. Friends With Kids balances observational laughs and pathos quite deftly amongst a band of well-to-do New Yorkers with the help of a stellar cast. It shows the growing pains of a talent trying something new, but the strengths greatly outweigh the minuses brought on as a result of a misguided ending.
Feeling left behind by their friends who have grown up and apart through marriage and children, a pair of serial bachelors and best friends (Westfeldt and Adam Scott) decide to have a child together without the contempt and acrimonious feelings that marriage brings on. Naturally, things get complicated once the child is old enough for the parents to go out on dates again, leading them to wonder if they really are meant for each other after all.
While the script might provide a stumbling point for those not willing to listen to rich people sometimes complaining about rich people problems, it contains enough wit and wisdom about love and parenting to make the jokes universal and the emotions feel real. Much like the New Yorkers that inhabit one of Woody’s films, Westfeldt’s characters all come with their own baggage and neuroses that humanize the opulence around them.
Westfeldt is stellar as a woman unsure of what she wants even after she has a kid, and Scott almost pulls off the delicate act of being her missing piece and her eternal foil. The supporting cast is stacked, as well, with Megan Fox and Edward Burns as potential suitors for the leads, and Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd as a sarcastic, antagonistic, and undoubtedly loving couple. The standouts here, however, are the always great Jon Hamm and a never better Kristen Wiig as a formerly loving couple in slow, painful decline.
When I say Scott (who’s usually the high point of anything he’s in) almost pulls off his role, it’s because the film’s purposefully awkward ending never feels believable. Scott stops seeming like a romantic lead just as things are starting to wrap up, and the film ends on an oddly flat note that seems to think it’s funny and sad at the same time. I’m all for ambiguity, but it actually does these strong characters a disservice by giving the film what feels like a brush off conclusion. It’s ambiguous, but it doesn’t go far enough, if that makes any sense. At any rate, couples and audiences finally have a smart and funny option to the wealth of lacklustre rom-coms of the past few months.