Article by Alexa Richards
The action took place here, and in more ways than one, Jennifer Westfeldt’s new movie Friends with Kids covers well-treaded territory.
In scenes shot in Brooklyn Heights, Ft. Greene, Dumbo and elsewhere in the city during last year’s epic snow blizzards, six friends grapple with the ups and downs of marriage, babies, parenting and sex. The central characters, played by Westfeldt and Adam Scott, are Julie and Jason, two sexy (and slightly neurotic) best-friend singles chasing after the elusive perfect mate, debating how to keep the sex alive and still pursue a family.
As Julie and Jason witness the demise of their friends’ happy marriages when the babies come along, the two decide to go their own way: To have the baby as friends, but pursue the ultimate sex and soul mate elsewhere without mixing in all that messy baby stuff.
Writer/director Westfeldt captures something of the complex marriage + children equation. We recognize the scenic brownstone Brooklyn streetscapes: progressive dads pushing strollers; snarky wives tidying the house while barking orders; clueless husbands. An angry couple who can’t get past the stress of a new baby. Westfeldt’s characters take us somewhere familiar, funny, painful.
The film seems to emphasize with us Brooklyn parents while at the same time disdaining us. The central characters don’t want to become us (and yes, the Brooklyn parent is now a stereotype), but avoid the fate. Then there’s the Brooklyn joke. Julie and Jason—still Manhattanites—bemoan an expensive cab ride to see their old friends, now Brooklyn parents.
In real life, Westfeldt and her long-time romantic partner, Jon Hamm, have talked about their lack of interest in becoming parent. Westfeldt, an Upper West-sider, doesn’t much care for Brooklyn. http://www.esquire.com/features/jon-hamm-interview-0312
But Brooklyn-as-punch-line feels a little tired. (Aren’t we all past this Manhattan/Brooklyn thing?) While the film resonates with many poignant moments, it lacks a certain intimate insight into parenthood. The characters’ central obsession with sex feels out of tune with the reality of raising a family.
We’re familiar with the beleaguered spouse/ resentful spouse dynamic. The characters here don’t move past the cliché to those moments when we apologize to one other, and someone does the dishes.
The last line of the movie, “Fuck the shit out of me”, kind of sums it up. Westfeldt doesn’t fully get what this parenting thing is all about.
Playing at Cobble Hill Cinemas: http://cobblehilltheatre.com/nowplaying.asp
With: Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm
The films mixed reviews: Rolling Stone, New York Times, Black Book Mag.