Thursday, 5 July 2012

Movie Review: Friends with Kids

It's rare to find a romantic comedy that succeeds in both aspects, romance and comedy. Most of the time the film ends up being a decent comedy with unbearably cheesy romantic scenes forced in for the sake of the genre. At other times films which may have fared alright as out and out romantic films turn sour when they're peppered with cheap laughs in order to bring in audiences that consist of more than just females or couples. What 'Friends with Kids' does so well is that it provides a smart, thought provoking romance with natural comedy based in its realistic situations. With great writing and an incredibly talented cast to bring the script to life Jennifer Westfeldt has accomplished the uncommon, she created not only a good romantic comedy, but a great one.

The story follows two friends, Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) over a number of years. Their group of friends begins to pull apart as the individual couples begin to get married and have children, Alex (Chris O'Dowd) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) are the first to do so, whilst originally a very loving couple who have plenty of time for each other their lives are heavily impacted by the addition of children who become the focus of their day. The other couple Ben (Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristin Wiig) experience a different change in relationship with the arrival of parenthood, when before they had a highly sexual relationship the two begin to resent each other after they have a child. Julie and Jason want to have a child but escape the pitfalls that affected their friends, in other words they want to have a child whilst remaining friends and available for the love of their lives to find them.

Prepared for parenthood.

The initial premise of the film seemed somewhat novel to me but still quite predictable, nonetheless I was willing to give it a try. Whilst the broad strokes of my imaginings ended up being correct I was wrong about the film as a whole. The wit and rich characters instantly bring the viewer into the film, it deals with very real situations yet it doesn't look upon them with the usual rom-com lens which makes the story seem cheesy, it was so refreshing to see an actual comedic view be present in the film during scenes of misery or hardship. The usual manipulation by rom-coms to elicit feelings of sympathy and sadness from the audience such as unrealistic and very much "written" speeches or scenes aren't employed here, the writing and story moves so fluidly that the emotions do not feel forced or artificial, a difficult feat to pull off in a genre where the audience is expecting tear-jerking methods of a rom-com.

Having such a terrific cast really helped 'Friends with Kids' out. Jennifer Westfeldt is great as the lead actress, she is very likeable as Julie and has great chemistry with the very talented Adam Scott who does a great job as Jason. Jon Hamm was the highlight of the film for me, even though he had a very small amount of screen time the Mad Men star did a lot for his character and contributed greatly to my enjoyment of the film, his character Ben became more and more defined as the film went on and by the end he seemed much more like a real person than any of the other supporting cast thanks to the very talented Jon Hamm. Kristin Wiig had an even smaller role than Hamm and I think this was perhaps to the film's detriment, Wiig was given so little to do that her character ended up meaning very little to the rest of the film and to me as a viewer. Chris O'Dowd does his best attempt at an American accent when playing Alex, the accent is just plain bad and really troubled me for the first few scenes with him until I was able to settle into it, he did a good job overall even though he didn't outshine any of his cast members. Maya Rudolph was enjoyable as Leslie, a frustrated mother in a difficult marriage, she was given more to do than Wiig and worked very well with both O'Dowd and Westfeldt so her contribution to the story was evident.

Don Draper at the booze again.

The film was both written and directed Jennifer Westfeldt who also plays the lead. Westfeldt's last outing as a writer and also star was in 2001's Indie hit "Kissing Jessica Stein" a film which was universally praised by critics, many of whom have been anticipating her next film. Westfeldt brings a relaxed atmosphere with her writing that puts the audience at ease and makes them feel familiar with the story's characters very quickly. The quips are snappy, the characters are realistic and the romance is moving, you couldn't ask for a better writing style in a rom-com.

Although I enjoyed the film greatly I did find a few occurrences where my enjoyment lessened and I found the film a little boring. Mostly this happened during the plot forwarding scenes which occur in the earlier half of the movie. For a film that spans a number of years as this one does it is necessary to set up a good amount of the story before getting to the actual point of the film and although the script is great it would have been possible to make these scenes a less tedious aspect to the film than they ended up being. Another fault I found was the that some aspects in the later minutes of the film seem to be rushed or completely forgotten about, entire characters disappear without a good enough explanation in favour of giving more time to the central story.

The movie uses music very well, not in an obtrusive way where it will pull you out of the film to enjoy a song but by using music that perfectly compliments what is onscreen. The standout scene in the film is that which takes place in the log cabin on New Years Eve, in this scene the writing, acting and story culminate perfectly to deliver an intensely gripping, moving scene steeped in the films great humour.

I wanted this film to be genuinely funny and yet still true to its roots romantic comedy roots without including the usual crap, 'Friends with Kids' was this and more, it'll certainly be a film I'll revisit in the future when no doubt it'll still be as enjoyable and original as it is today.

No comments:

Post a Comment