Sunday, March 11, 2012

Friends with Kids review; a heartfelt comedy about modern day families

It's amazing how times change.  And one of the best things about movies is, they change with the times.  A few decades ago, movie stars didn't even share a kiss on screen.  Now?  Well, yeah.  Movies also redefine family as the times change too.  In comes Friends with Kids, redefining what a family is in today's society.  It's an independent film, written, directed and starring Jennifer Westfeldt.  The premise is simple.  Westfeldt and Adam Scott play best friends who don't have children.  All of their friends have kids and they're feeling a little left out.  So they decide to skip all the complications of a relationship and marriage, and have a child as friends.  Let's go.

What I liked about the film:
The Actors
This film is a character piece.  Westfeldt turns in an amazing performance.  She is a strong, yet vulnerable woman.  She is independent, yet seeks the love a man.  She is a great mother, but needs Adam Scott's help in raising their child.  Adam Scott has perhaps the biggest character arc of the film.  He stars by being a womanizer who doesn't really know what it means to love a woman.  He does an amazing job portraying someone who is confused and conflicted.  It's almost as though we see him deciding between what his mind, and what his heart are telling him.

Westfeldt and Scott have an amazing chemistry together.  We, the audience, have no trouble believing these two characters could be best friends.  The two actors play off of each other very well.  No surprise, Westfeldt and Scott share the best scenes in the movie as well.

The movie is made up of a ton of great stars.  The "friends" in the title are made up of: Jon Hamm (Westfeldt's real life boyfriend of 15 years, and co-producer of the film), Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Fox and Edward Burns.  A lot of those names look familiar?  Well 4 of them stared in last years blockbuster comedy, Bridesmaids.  The actors are terrific, and mostly because of the writing and their characters' story arcs.

The Writer/Director/Story
There have been plenty of movies focused on "unconventional" families.  Hell, one of them even stars Madonna for God's sake.  And television shows like "Modern Family" showcase the change in the word family.  What sets Friends with Kids apart is it's amazing script.  Westfeldt has written a wonderful, simple, relatable story for all to enjoy.  The dialogue is perhaps the best part of the movie.  It was believable and reminded me of the heart in another great comedy, Knocked Up.  What made that movie so great was it stayed grounded in realty, as does Friends with Kids.  It never felt like a sitcom, or drifted towards obsurd situations.  Another thing worth noting is how rich every character is written in the film.  They are all interesting, different and worth being in the film.

What I didn't like about the film:
Let's Talk
A minor complaint I have: nothing really happens.  Most of the movie involves Westfeldt and Scott, or the entire group, sitting around a kitchen table talking.  As I mentioned above, the dialogue is wonderful, so it's more than ok.  It's also important to note, this is an independent film, and the budget may not have allowed for more than what was shot.  I will say there were a few unnecessary scenes that did nothing for the overall story.

The Third Act
The script is very good; again, it was believable and relatable.  However, the third act needed some tightening up.  There is definitely a resolution for our characters, but it felt forced.  There is a quick montage that is supposed to explain a few hook-ups and break-ups; and it needed more to get us to our climax.  I wouldn't discourage anyone from watching the movie because of it, but it's worth noting.

The Verdict:
Family with a ton of heart
Needless to say, I really enjoyed this film.  Westfeldt has turned in an amazing script that everyone will fall in love with.  It's not going to have slapstick comedy, so don't go in expecting that.  It's not going to have any physical comedy either.  It reminded me a lot of Dan in Real Life in that it is a character piece that stays grounded in reality.  The tone was perfect despite the pacing and run time.  If you have time, I would definitely recommend checking out this great film.

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