Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friends with Kids [2012]

MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB (A-III) Roger Ebert (2 1/2 Stars) Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Friends with Kids (written, directed and costarring Jennifer Westfeldt) is a romcom that's going to rattle and at least initially outright offend a fair number of people.  Two still-single attractive young professionals, Jason Fryman (played by Adam Scott) and Julie Keller (played by Jennifer Westfeldt), "living the dream" in Manhattan, New York, watch aghast as their married best friends Leslie and Alex (played by Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd) and Ben and Missy (played by Jon Hamm and Kristen Wigg) "change" (become more stressed, arguably meaner) as they begin having families.  They also note (whether true or not) that people often remarry better after their first marriage falls apart (according to them, largely on account of those kids necessarily changing the relationship existing in the first marriage).

The solution that the two talkative and iconoclastic single friends come-up with is to have the kid outside of wedlock with someone that they kinda care about but not enough to marry (hence start "already divorced") and then just look for the "post-first marriage soul mate" who (according to their theory) seems to materialize out of the ashes of the first marriage (destroyed by having kids).  And the two decide, of course, that their current relationship (best friends but not attracted to each other) fits the bill.  What could go wrong?  Right?

Here we can thank Jennifer Westfeld for making the movie, definitely NOT to serve as an "example" of how things ought to be done in the world today.  Rather we should thank her because the film serves as a thought experiment and a discussion piece for all of us watching it.  Indeed, the other characters in the story, including the parents of the two adventurous, again iconoclastic young adults, are given opportunity to voice various objections to the scheme, objections that Westfield does not disparage in her piece. Indeed, if anything, I do think that she encourages the characters in her story (and the audience) to respond to the unorthodox, even shocking undertaking of the two lead characters of the story.

And as the film plays out, she does present some of the flaws in the scheme -- how does one come to explain this unorthodox arrangement to the kid (at 2 at 5 at 8 at 12 at 15 at 17 at 19 at 22 at 28 at really age)?  And then what is the true nature of romance?  Is it only to be found simply in beauty / roses / fine things and sexual acrobatics?  Or can it be found even in the changing of a diaper of a kid experiencing "projectile diarrhea?"

So as has often happened to me in the past by the time I get to the end of my review of the film, I find myself liking the film far more than when I started.

Folks, please don't take the scheme of the two lead characters in this film to be "the way things ought to be."  Rather understand the film to be intended to be a "discussion piece."  I've written here many times in this blog that ultimately Hollywood is far more traditional / conservative than one may initially believe.  Hollywood may flirt with radical ideas but often to return to and validate that which we understand as "tried and true" by the time the closing credits role. 

I do believe this film to fit in this mold.  It's a heck of a ride.  The two characters of this film bravely step out of the mold to try something new (and remember there's safety in this being "only a film", a "thought experiment," a "day dream").  Yet by the end, after ample "free discussion" by "the peanut gallery" (composed of the other characters in the story, and even we, the viewers) of the couple's avant guard choice, I do believe that the vast majority of us will leave appreciating "the wisdom of the old way."

Great film!

One last note to parents.  It should be obvious from the discussion above that even a teen won't "get' this film.  There is some bad language but no nudity.  Yet this film definitely deserves the R rating.  It's simply meant for adults, college aged or even post-college-aged and above.

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