Stuck In The Middle
By Carl Kozlowski
If you’re in your late 30s or older, chances are you’ve dealt with some of the thorniest questions an adult can face: Will I find my soul mate? Do I marry them if I do? How quickly do I need to have a kid before it gets complicated? And which of the myriad ways that are available these days is the right way to go to produce a child?
Actually, most of us are lucky to avoid these questions by getting married and settling down with Mr. or Ms. Right, at least long enough to have a kid before a divorce hits.
But in the new movie Friends with Kids, writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt (who also stars) plays Julie Keller, a sweet New York City woman who can’t seem to find any options that work other than the deceptively complex one right in front of her face.
Julie could be inseminated professionally by strangers or get pregnant by sleeping around, but with a best friend like Jason (played by Parks & Recreation breakout star Adam Scott), it seems her best bet would be to take the plunge with him. After all, he’s got a high-paying job in advertising, is classically handsome and she’s known him forever.
Problem is they’ve seen what kids have done to the formerly carefree lives of their fellow yuppie friends, including one couple played by Kristin Wiig and Jon Hamm, who are coming apart at the seams. Meanwhile, George O’Dowd and Maya Rudolph play another couple that’s weathered the storms of a 10-year marriage and parenting. They have a relationship that’s comically contentious but built to last.
As Julie and Jason indeed decide to have sex solely to pop out a baby, while maintaining the goal of staying best friends with joint custody of their thoroughly modern child, everyone around them has an opinion on the arrangement. And as time goes on, life has a way of not working as smoothly as they had planned.
Yes, all four of these supporting actors are from the cast of the smash hit Bridesmaids, but the charms of Friends with Kids are both more indie and low-key, and, unfortunately, less funny.
For a while, Friends with Kids presents life in a more realistic fashion than the boisterous Bridesmaids. It also gets stuck in the humdrum aspects of life for much of its middle stretch between a zippy opening half-hour and a strong yet fairly serious final half-hour.
The performers are all fun to watch and do their best with the clichéd basic arc of the relationship between Julie and Jason. But ultimately there’s not enough plot to sustain interest. And even after a well-acted and impassioned speech by one character near the end, the actual final lines are bad enough to be cringe-inducing and awkward enough to send couples out of the theater feeling a tad icky.
In other words, Friends with Kids is the kind of date movie that actually feels like a bad first date. You want it to work out, you really do. But more often than not, your hopes are dashed.