“Friends With Kids”
First there was Friends With Benefits, which was about beautiful, successful people with no particular skills other than a certain athleticism in bed. Now there is Friends With Kids, about relatively attractive and moderately successful people with high verbal skills and lots of rage and frustration at the choices they’ve made.
Jennifer Westfeldt, who directed, wrote, and also stars in the film, is trying, sometimes too desperately, to channel Woody Allen. As an actress, she is the annoying version of Diane Keaton much of the time, but annoying might also mean more honest. Much of the script is dead-on accurate about how people survive a marriage and children, who tend to interrupt our romantic notion of marriage and continue to interrupt it for a goodly number of years.
There is a very accomplished cast of the new Hollywood version of comedian, beginning with Kirsten Wiig, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, and Jon Hamm, who probably isn’t part of that aforementioned group but should be. Hamm walks the edge with more brilliance than any of them. I mean the edge of reality without commenting on it. Most comics can’t keep themselves from commenting on the characters they are playing, but these guys play it straight and that’s what makes it funny.
The story is about two best friends, a man and a woman, whose best friends are married and eventually end up with children. While the main characters remain happily, at least most of the time, single, free, and with changing sexual partners so their lives are never cluttered by keeping another person’s schedule or changing the diaper of a screaming, hungry child with a fever. Since they are best friends, they always have someone to share how the lousy date with a dentist went.
After 45 minutes of clever dialogue and some painfully uncomfortable moments, enduring couples begin sniping at each other in a way that simply can’t wait until the guests have gone. The two then decide they should get the baby-making thing out of the way, share the responsibility the way only best friends can, and get back to looking for Mr. and Mrs. Right. We all know where this is going to end, so I won’t be spoiling it to say that finally they end up in each others arms with a healthy, happy and supposedly well-adjusted child along with a great future which they have earned by putting off the ultimate decision until they have tried everything else.
I am way out of touch, old and cranky, I know, but I think the time of the Yuppie has come and gone and I wish this film had gone with it. It substitutes annoying babble for wit and charm. There were times when I really wanted to turn down the volume on their fun chatter. I mean literally. Intimate scenes on subways and in restaurants are played at full voice as though no one else was around. Six people sitting around a table whining at the same time doesn’t thrill me at all. I can only take so much narcissism. However, this is the romantic comedy formula of the day. So be it.
Friends With Kids, not Friends With Benefits, opens Friday, March 9 at the Oriental Theatre.