From the pre-credits scene of the movie, it is fairly clear where Friends With Kids is headed in regards to the two characters we are first introduced to. Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt, also the writer and director) and Jason (Adam Scott) speak to each other on the phone whilst both in bed with someone else, establishing their relationship as platonic but clearly more meaningful than their respective sexual partnerships; i.e. oh no, they’re perfect for each other but they don’t realise it. Thus begins this now very familiar Harry and Sally story. However, to be fair to Westfeldt, the content of the film has a lot more to it than just the central relationship. As the title suggests, the film explores how people’s lives change, for better and worse, when they make the decision to bring children into the world; the two main characters decide to bypass all the “shit that comes with marriage” by having a child together but remaining single.
The film manages to cover a few years whilst remaining under two hours, which seems to capture well that rapid and scary transitional period between early adulthood and real adulthood, i.e. marriage and kids. What makes the film as much of a drama as a comedy is its portrayal of relationships that sadly don’t stand the test of time and change, notably the couple played by Kristen Wiig and John Hamm. Kristen Wiig being probably the funniest actor out of the whole cast, it was interesting to see her play someone wracked with resentment and the film could’ve done with more focus on hers and Hamm’s character development. Instead we follow Jason and Julia who, although perhaps less funny than their screen buddies – the jokes about loose vaginas and sex in general get very tiresome – are quite likeable characters with decent chemistry between the actors. Westfeldt’s use of improvised dialogue works very well in moments such as Jason showing the slightly estranged Julie and his son a photo album of the three of them; the spontaneous interjections bring a natural poignancy to the lovely scene.
Unfortunately its casting four of the stars of the hilarious Bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, John Hamm and Chris O’Dowd) may set up high comedy expectations where it doesn’t deliver. There aren’t really gags or comedic situations; rather banter between characters and sometimes moments of awkwardness. These sort-of funny bits are enough to evoke a smile, perhaps a chuckle – often it’s simply a shot of, or a word from, Kristen Wiig – but the film is mostly an observational drama. Without giving too much away, the ending is slightly ridiculous and lets the film down with its predictability and, somehow, abruptness too. This may make little sense without explicitly discussing the ending, but anyone who has seen a few romcoms will know what I’m driving at, and you can see it coming even before the film starts.
Overall it is difficult to form one definitive opinion of this film; the story, characters and setting have potential to be of Woody Allen-esque charm but that doesn’t quite happen. Its ideas, such as what keeps relationships and friendships together and the inevitability of change, are interesting, and delivered well by the actors, but the film is not as fresh as it could be, and is simply not funny enough.