Give The Drummer Some: Recent Alt-J and Why?

Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in “Friends With Kids”


Singer/Guitarist Joe Newman of Alt-J (∆) at Paradise Rock Club
Singer/Guitarist Joe Newman of Alt-J (∆) at Paradise Rock Club

Published In The Daily Free Press on 3/6/13

Does having children extinguish every ounce of love and sanity that may have existed between a once-happily-in-love couple? That’s the question asked in Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends With Kids.

Jason Fryman (Adam Scott) and Julie Keller (Westfeldt) are best friends.  They live in the same chic Manhattan building and are treated as a de facto couple by their close-knit friend group: the voracious-lovers, Ben (John Hamm) and Missy (Kristen Wiig), and the every-couple, Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd).

At a friend dinner, Leslie announces that she is pregnant. It’s a shocker for everybody, especially Jason and Julie, and the audience is soon thrust forward four years.

Jason and Julie are still as tight as ever, however, they haven’t seen their good friends in months. The day finally comes when they visit Leslie and Alex, now banished to Brooklyn. Leslie and Alex spend their night screaming and scrambling around as their hell-raising child makes a mess out of the place, and their sanity. Things get worse when Ben and Missy come over with their child and appear a shadow of their once lively selves.

On the subway ride back, Jason and Julie two ruminate on the changes in their friends. It’s almost as if having children have made them completely different: Jason says, “We don’t know these people…[they’re] angry and mean.” The two single urbanites champion the freedom that comes with being single divorced parent—that freedom to fall in love all over again once things fizzle out with your spouse. By the end of the night, the two agree to copulate once and pop out a child, no love needed…easy, right?

Where Friends With Kids excels is in its cast. Adam Scott is believable as Jason Fryman, the self-perceived lady’s man that’s too shallow to settle down. Kristen Wiig and John Hamm are convincing as Ben and Missy, the lustful couple that experience first-hand the post-child dwindling of love. Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd excel as Leslie and Alex, the homey couple that may argue, but at the end of the night, make in through the tough times.

Jennifer Westfeldt, however, is bland as Julie Keller. Her character makes the audience question if Jason can do better (he probably can). Considering Westfeldt wrote the script herself, it is puzzling how she ended up penning and playing the least interesting of characters.

Just as the relationship with Jason and Julie, the writing in Friends With Kids hits some stumbles along the way. For one, the film tries a bit too hard to be edgy and inappropriate—yes, sometimes it is funny to be explicit and obvious in your humor, but please give us a double-entendre now and then to make things interesting. It is not that the dialogue offends, it simply gets boring endlessly talking about Adam Scott’s genital size. And secondly, how many times do we need to hear that Jason loves Julie…as a friend and does not find her physically attractive at all? We get it and it when we’re bludgeoned with it it’s going to sound overwritten and akin to the The Room’s oft-quoted “But Johnny’s my best friend!”

Friends With Kids is not the same romantic comedy we’ve seen over and over, but it still adheres to that tried-and-true method of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. It does have a strong premise and is more lewd than your average woman’s fantasy tale, however, the film gets bogged down with some cringe-worthy dialogue (but what’s a romantic comedy without a bit of cheese?). Overall Friends With Kids is an enjoyable time that plays on the idea of love, sex, and friendship. Be sure to see it with your best friend of the opposite sex with whom you’ve time-and-time explained that nothing will happen between you two…


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