Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Friends With Kids (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Friends with Kids

For those of you looking in suburban rental queues or backyards for a satisfying antidote to the tension in "We Need to Talk About Kevin", "Friends with Kids" is the ticket. This pleasing romantic comedy takes a bit of irreverence from "Friends with Benefits" and "Bridesmaids", given that Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph both co-star in the film, along with former Bridesmaids cad John Hamm. If you think "Friends with Kids" is full of references from its past Rom-Com siblings you would be right, (with the "couples who work together, stay together" message of Judd Apatow added for good measure) but rather than be annoying the film works and manages to appear novel. This is due to the honesty and verve of the acting and the authentic roles.

Jennifer Westfeldt directs and stars here and she has a sharpness for dialogue and a pacing that makes her a bit like a Woody Allen or a Nora Ephron for the cyberspace set.

Westfeldt plays Julie, a well meaning advisor with an off-kilter sense of humor. She recalls Winona Ryder of "Edward Scissorhands" with a dash of Jennifer Aniston. Julie's favorite icebreaker: "Which would you rather have? Aneurism or cancer?"
What a sweet talker.

Julie has a best friend: the honest, loping and self-deprecating Jason (Adam Scott). Julie and Jason spend every waking minute together, it seems, and go to parties in which everybody is married with kids. They date others with no satisfaction. They are restless.

Aha! It doesn't take a Rom-Com fan to figure out that they decide to take nature in their own hands and have a baby while still remaining friends.
Can they manage? Just watch.

Yes, there are the formulaic ups and downs and some expected misunderstandings, but the hook here are the fine performances.

Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and John Hamm are all excellent as frazzled and edgy husbands and wives who all want to keep up with the Status Quo and listen to their parents, until they wish they hadn't. Special mention should be given to character actor Chris O' Dowd as the passive and semi-offensive husband Alex. Like Woody Allen's sidekick Tony Roberts, O' Dowd's slacker image is the perfect foil to Adam Scott's Banana Republic good boy averageness.

Instead of worrying about New York, hypochondria and anti-semitism, today's romances focus on the novelty of casual encounters, economic pressures and the distractions of social media and smartphones. Although you might feel as if you are watching a bit of "Harry Met Sally" sponsored by IPhone, the laughs are bouncy and effervescent. The glib verbal repartee at the film's end makes what would normally be thought obscene into a poignant challenge.

The message of "Friends with Kids" is to let go, and you most definitely should, by rolling, or strolling to your seat.

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