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Friends with Kids
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Friends with Kids – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Best friends Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) spend most of their time hanging out with couples Missy (Kristen Wiig) & Ben (John Hamm) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) & Alex (Chris O’Dowd).
As a positively grown-up dinner at an expensive restaurant is continuously disturbed by the screaming children at the next table, there are shamelessly audible mutterings about how kids should be banned from posh places like that…until Leslie & Alex reveal that they’ve called the dinner to announce that they’re expecting a baby.
We flash forward a few years, by which time Missy & Ben are also parents.
Tensions are showing in both relationships, but Julie and Jason are still the best of friends – so close, in fact, that undeterred by seeing what parenthood has done to their friends, they decide to try to have a child together, before it’s too late. They live in the same building, but date other people, so they can share the child-care and everyone’s a winner, right?
Of course, in the romantic comedy world, nothing can possibly go quite as planned, as the central friendship comes under strain.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Jennifer Westfeldt rose to prominence by writing and starring in the charming and mature 2001 romance Kissing Jessica Stein, but what’s she been doing ever since?
She’s finally back, taking on the additional role of director, in this attempt to recreate that magic – for the thirty-something audience.
Bringing boyfriend John Hamm on board – and with him, his Bridesmaids co-stars Wiig, Rudolph and O’Dowd – could be seen as a cynical or clever way to entice that demographic, depending on how you take to it.
It’s certainly fertile grounds for a grown-up comedy – looking at how our attitudes to noisy children changes from when we’re young and don’t want them to when we’re older and already have them – and it also examines how approaching forty can make you feel like you’re missing out on life, when your closest friends are not just paired up, but procreating.
But while the themes are admirable, the treatment is rather blunt and obvious – with too many of the characters bouncing between caricature and grotesque.
Westfeldt’s Julie is the only truly likeable character, but we lose sympathy for her as she develops stronger feelings for the self-absorbed and emotionally childish Jason.
Once the predictable rom-com plot kicks in, every twist and turn is sign-posted about three scenes in advance, as our central pair seem to be driven inevitably together, but one obstacle after another is thrown in their path by the film-gods who require films of this genre to approach two hours in duration.
The film is earnest and could have had much to offer its target audience, but most of its supposed revelations seem like no-brainers and the only surprise would be if anyone watching it were actually caught off guard by its narrative.
Its forty-something director has presented twenty-something writing to a thirty-something audience that knows better and expects and deserves more.

Opens 29 June 2012

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