There are two ugly truths about new parents that no one wants to talk about. The first is that having a baby often makes once-fun couples boring. Assuming they actually have enough time to meet up with you between work, errands, and constant parenting duties, the child that dominates all of their waking moments will be the only thing they're able to talk about since new parents aren't checking out new restaurants, following current events, traveling, or going to the movies. In fact, if you're around new parents, you're often lucky to get 30 minutes of lucid conversation from them before they start nodding off. That's when you realize that spending time with you is just an obstacle to what all new parents want to do most: sleep. The second ugly truth is that a lot of couples don't survive the demands of having a baby, which can reveal that the relationship was not built on a strong enough foundation to survive that sort of round-the-clock stress.
These ugly truths are well recognized in Friends With Kids, as best friends Julie (writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) watch helplessly as their married friends (Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd, Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm) are transformed into bickering, boring zombies by parenthood. Eager to have kids of their own but scared of ending up like their friends, Julie and Jason devise a novel workaround -- have a child together (despite not being a couple), then share custody so they can have enough free time to remain interesting and have lives while continuing their searches for their ideal mates. The result is, in my opinion, one of the best movies about male/female friendships since When Harry Met Sally...
Watch my ReThink Review of Friends With Kids below.
In 1989, the film When Harry Met Sally... took what was, at the time, a pretty modern look at gender relationships by asking whether a man and woman could ever be platonic friends. While it ended along conventional romcom lines, it was still a seminal film that sparked millions of flirty conversations. No other film has taken such a funny, modern look at the shifting nature of heterosexual male/female relationships. That is, until now. The new film Friends With Kids takes the premise of When Harry Met Sally... to it's next logical step, accepting that men and women can be friends, but going further to ask whether male and female friends can raise a child together while effectively remaining single.
The friends in question are serial dater Jason (played by Adam Scott) and good girl Julie (played by the film's writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt). Friends since college, Jason and Julie are now in their 30s and live in the same building, where they lead the kind of perfect New York lifestyles we're used to seeing in movies and TV shows, full of sharp outfits, beautiful apartments, hip restaurants, and attractive friends, consisting of comfy married couple Leslie and Alex (played by Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd) and passionate, sexy newlyweds Ben and Missy (played by Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig).
But this metropolitan utopia is disrupted when Leslie and Alex reveal that they're pregnant, but promise that nothing will change and they'll stay the same hip, cool friends they always were. But flash forward four years, and Leslie and Alex are living a decidedly unhip life in Brooklyn, bickering, exhausted, stuck at home, and with the passion drained from their marriage. Ben and Missy also have a baby, but all of their sizzle has turned to resentment and spite.
Jason and Julie both want to have a kid, but aren't attracted to each other and don't want to end up like their married friends. So they devise a shortcut -- they'll have a kid together and split the child-rearing duties while maintaining their single lives, like a divorced couple sharing custody without the marriage or divorce. While their friends think this is a terrible idea and a critique on their married lives, they can't argue with the positive results, though obstacles eventually arise, especially when Jason and Julie both meet people who appear to be their soulmates.
Since Friends With Kids is, at its heart, a romantic comedy, you can probably guess how it ends. But I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this film, which has strong, very natural performances from a talented cast. The dialogue actually feels like you're overhearing real conversations, and while the jokes come fast and funny, they aren't juvenile or silly and sound like what would come from smart adults trying their best to figure things out.
While republicans act like marriage is some perfect creation that must be protected from liberals and committed gay couples who wish to destroy it, it's pretty clear from people who live in reality that straight people have done a pretty thorough job of wrecking it on their own, evidenced by the fact that around 50% of marriages end in divorce, nearly everyone I know comes from divorced parents or are divorced themselves, and that people are increasingly wary of taking the plunge and are waiting longer to get married. Friends With Kids acknowledges this reality as Jason and Julie attempt to have a family while seeking a smarter alternative to an institution that's so no longer required for having kids and will more than likely fail.
While Friends With Kids probably won't be a classic like When Harry Met Sally... and eventually gives in to romcom conventions, it's a very good, funny, modern take on what younger generations are willing to do to avoid marriage's pitfalls without giving up the dream of having a family. It's a surprisingly good comedy aimed at adults, which is why Friends With Kids earned my What the Flick rating of 8.3. I'm Jonathan Kim for What the Flick.