**I saw this movie when it came out in theaters and I wrote this review for an online magazine that never came out. Regular readers of this blog will notice this is written in a very different voice then my other couch reviews. Still, I thought it would be nice to read a different style of writing from me and most importantly, I didn't feel like writing the whole thing again!
If you follow politics at all, you’ll know that one of the biggest topics these days is the current state of The American Family.
The notion that Hollywood has always had a liberal bias is solidified by a crop of films that focus on non-traditional families.
Both Juno and The Kids Are All Right, focused on family situations not often seen on the big screen. While teen pregnancy and same-sex parents are hot button political topics, these films did well at the box office and each garnered a Best Picture Academy Award nomination.
Now, in 2011, we have writer, director and star, Jennifer Westfeldt’s take on modern parenting. Her new film Friends with Kids, confronts the question, “Does having children destroy a romantic relationship?”
Fans of last year’s surprise hit, Bridesmaids, will be happy to see Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, John Hamm and Chris O’Dowd back on screen together. This film is not quite the laugh fest that Bridesmaids was. Instead, Friends with Kids focuses on the trials of three types of couples with children. This film provides more drama than Bridesmaids, but will certainly give you some laughs.
Missy (Wiig) and Ben (Hamm) are a married couple that can’t keep their hands off of each other prior to having children. Leslie (Rudolph) and Alex (O’Dowd) are ready to take the plunge into parenthood and promise their friends that they will remain the same. Fast forward four years and these two couples are living overwhelmed lives, snapping at each other and not having a lot of sex. The transformation of their friends is witnessed by the horrified Julie (Westfeldt) and Jason (a stand-out performance by the adorable Adam Scott). These two have never been romantically involved with each other and have remained platonic best friends since college. They feel they have cracked the code to modern parenting. They could have a child together, share the time, expense and responsibilities, yet be free to keep searching for “The One.” They are confident that the challenges a relationship faces when trying to raise young children leads to a bitter and unhappy marriage. Their theory is strongly supported by the ongoing deterioration of their married friends’ relationships.
Their experiment is played out in a very satisfying way for the viewer. The reactions of their friends, potential mates and themselves are heavily explored.
The film does have some contrived moments and you can even make a case for it being just another formulaic romantic comedy, but it’s nice to see a romantic comedy smart up to its audience instead of dumbing down for a change. The language is saucy, the characters fight like real people and nothing is too unrealistic that you can’t relate to it.
What does this movie say about the state of the American family? There’s a scene where Julie, Jason and their son open Julie’s Birthday present together. This is the best example of today’s American family. We may be wrapped all different ways. There are so many different styles of wrapping paper out there. Heck, sometimes people don’t even use wrapping paper; they use old newspaper! Still, it all tears away so easily. No matter how fancy or untraditionally it may be wrapped, we care about what’s on the inside. The outside is merely presentation. What all these films strive to show us is that every family finds its own way to make their dynamic work. It seems like the more we see many different types of families, the more they really all seem to be the same in their goal to nurture and love.