Friends with Kids: Fine rom-com, no kidding
This new addition to a familiar genre serves up humour in tasty, well-measured bites and delivers romance in a way that is neither trivial nor predictable.
Rom-com has increasingly becoming a derogatory term when you want to describe something made by a wannabe film-maker who transfers his or her personal trauma to the big screen in a way that usually triggers pity instead of laughter.
After the 1990s and the worldwide success of the Friends series, Hollywood realised that taking urban young people and putting them in a mix of humorous and romantic situations can be a recipe for box office success.
Apart from a few exceptions, they were proved right most of the time. And just as things started looking grim, with audiences getting bored of same old New York roomies stories, along came Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell in 1994in Four Weddings and a Funeral, paving the way for a bright future for the romantic comedy genre.
Jennifer Westfeldt is a name that you’ve probably not heard of, unless you are a passionate fan of TV series. This young American actress with a degree from Yale decided that the best way out of relative anonymity was to make her own film in which she is not only writer and director but the female lead, too.
The odds were not in her favour, as previous attempts of frustrated film people to make their “masterpiece” all too often ended in disaster. But with Friends with Kids, this is not the case.
To make things simple, the writer-director-actress took almost the entire cast of the comedy hit Bridesmaids and gave them a scenario about six ex-college friends, three women and three men, with Julie and Jason being the two singles.
Now in their mid-thirties and with solid jobs, these two Greenwich Village buddies decide to have a baby and raise it as friends, as they have zero romantic or physical attraction towards one another. They also believe that getting married and having children together are not a recipe for happiness, and so start looking for Mr and Ms Right immediately after the child is born.
For all the originality of the idea, it could easily have become a flop, but, instead, this young filmmaker has created one of the most easily digestible products of the whole genre.
Westfeldt’s studious approach to the problems of couples mixing romance with having kids in their late thirties is one of the main reasons why the film has succeeded.
All the mini-plots, be it the lack of sexual activity among couples with young children, or trying out relationships with new people just after childbirth, are resolved in a convincing, thought-out manner.
The director obviously gained most of her film experience within the TV world, which is why Friends with Kids looks like it was made for TV, with long dialogue scenes lacking much in the way of big screen suspense, instead offering a relaxed look into New York apartments and the everyday lives of their residents.
As for the direction of her colleagues, there are very few flaws. There is no great acting brilliance, but for this genre none is needed. Faces match characters and while the natural, almost overly relaxed relationship that the actors have with camera might be a problem for the first few minutes, you start enjoying it soon.
The only big Hollywood name in the film, Megan Fox, is well cast as the character in all ways opposite to the six friends who, despite shortcomings, are portrayed as decent family people. Fox’s character represents the young 20-something New York yuppie who craves fame and an easy life rather than devotion. This might be an insultingly simplistic comparison when put in words, but on film it works.
Because of its strong TV film character, some might be tempted to give Friends with Kids a miss in the cinema and see it at home. This genuine, warm-hearted couch movie is unlikely to give people much profound cinematic pleasures. It’s even less likely to ruin a relaxing evening at home.