March 13, 2012

MOVIES: Friends With Kids (Jennifer Westfeldt, 2012)

Writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt can't entire escape the pitfalls and cliches of romantic comedy in Friends With Kids, but she comes close enough to make the movie a pleasant surprise.

Westfeldt and Adam Scott are Julie and Jason, best friends who aren't romantically interested in one another (no, really, they're not, and they will tell you so at the drop of a hat), but decide to have a baby and share custody. Their married friends (Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd, Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm -- lord help us, it's a Bridesmaids reunion) think this is a crazy idea.

For a time, it looks as if Julie and Jason have indeed found a way to have it all -- adorable kid, co-parenting with their best friend, and a great new romantic interest for each of them (Edward Burns and Megan Fox, respectively) -- but alas, the love that has always been there between them inevitably rears its ugly head to complicate things.

The central problem of romantic comedy is always the same: We know these people belong together, and it gets annoying to watch the movie keep throwing artificial obstacles in their path. There's some of that here, certainly, but the primary obstacle is simply the longevity of their friendship, and the idea that they've fallen so firmly into "the friend zone" that they can't even imagine being romantically involved is more plausibility than the delaying tactics of the average romantic comedy.

The final act, with the reconciliation and uniting of the two, is the weakest part of the movie (and the final line is perhaps the ugliest and least romantic bit of dialogue in movie history), but even it's better than usual, and the first 80% of the movie is terrific.

Westfeldt and Scott are immensely charming; the supporting couples are very funny, particularly Wiig and Rudolph; Burns is more likable and attractive than he's been in years. Westfeldt's script is smart and observant, and the relationships of the married couples feel unusually real.

Very much worth seeing, especially in the winter wasteland of the current movie offerings.

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