friends with kids
Thursday, 28 June 2012

Film Reviews: 29 June

This charming, prickly, romantic comedy will have Bridesmaids fans smiling for days

Written by Kat Brown


kat brown1-BWLast summer's breakout hit Bridesmaids proved once and for all that when women get a smart, funny film that's about more than clothes, they will spend a ton of cash seeing it more than once. Phenomenally successful with men as well as women, Bridesmaids showed female characters that were ridiculous, funny and completely recognisable.

Jennifer Westfeldt's film, which pinches much of its cast from Bridesmaids, starting with her partner Jon Hamm, follows in the same vein. While it's easy to stamp this as Bridesmaids: Sequel With Spawn, this charming, prickly comedy is more like When Harry Met Sally with children.

Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt, who also writes, directs and produces) are best friends. They call each other from their beds, discuss each other's taste in lovers, and live in the same building. Like Harry and Sally, to their friends they are the perfect couple, just one that dates other people. Their best friends are couples: the relaxed Alex and Leslie (Chris O'Dowd and Maya Rudolph) and Ben and Missy (Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig), who spend most dinners diving into restaurant loos for sneaky sex.

Four years down the line, and the couples' relationships are under strain from having children, which in turn makes Jason and Julie assess that they would quite like children, but if they want them, it should probably be with each other. Far better to have a great parenting relationship, and find sexual and romantic fulfilment elsewhere – right?

If you've been within a sniff of a rom-com in the last 50 years, you'll see the ending cheerily waving its flag before the opening credits have finished rolling. However, as traditional as Friends With Kids is at heart, its wry and warm script is one of the very few to highlight compromise and realism as the most romantic parts of a long-term relationship. Alex and Leslie's marriage might not seem tremendously exciting, but it's strengthened by understanding, love and great friendship. Once the sex-fog has cleared and been replaced by nappies, Ben and Missy realise that their relationship needs them to have more in common than physical attraction.

Like Bridesmaids, Friends With Kids acknowledges the pressure that women who haven't yet found 'The One' are under, particularly from their own bodies. Julie, in her late 30s, turns to Jason partly because he'd be a great dad, but partly because her fertility is in a nose dive. Even Jason, free of that pressure, realises that he might want more from life than an endless stream of sex and parties – or at least, a different kind of sex and parties. Megan Fox, whose understated turn as Jason's much younger girlfriend is one of the film's high points, provides a much-needed bridge between free-and-easy youth and responsibility.

I haven't got children, so a lot of the more grizzly child-driven jokes had me hiding under my jacket. But I loved it. Parents will have a ball, and those in relationships who have weathered storms (and offspring) will findplenty to love. Unlike actual children, Friends With Kids really is for everyone.

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