A Pre-Mid-Life Crisis of Friends With Kids

I really,
really, really wanted to like this movie. Kristen Wiig! Maya Rudolph! Jon Hamm!
Adam Scott! All of the actors from my favorite television shows and a Bridesmaids reunion to boot! Alas, the
magic of Bridesmaids was missing from
start to finish of this cloyingly sweet and ultimately vacant film. From the way Jason (Scott) refers to Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) as “doll”
upwards of fifteen times in the first five minutes (seriously, unless you’re
Humphrey Bogart and it’s the 1940s, you probably can’t pull this off) to the
stilted dialogue, this movie fell flat on its overproduced, under-inspired face. In Friends with Kids, Jason and Julie have
been platonic friends since college along with two romantic couples: Leslie
(Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd); Missy (Wiig) and Ben (Hamm). The six of them
are living the dream in Manhattan until the couples start having babies. Flash
forward four years (time moves in very strange jumps and starts throughout this
movie) and Jason and Julie feel unable to connect with their friends who are
constantly fighting as a result of baby stress. Jason and Julie then decide to
have a baby together, split the work and continue to date in search of The One.
Post-baby, they both meet caricatures of heterosexual perfection—Megan Fox
plays the sexy young dancer who rocks at video games and doesn’t want
kids, while Edward Burns plays the ruggedly handsome manly man who is great
with children and housework. But SURPRISE! Jason and Julie are actually in love
with each other! Hooray for innovation in romcoms.

The ending
is expected and cliché (much like this sentence), but so what?
I did not go to see this movie wanting to be shocked, mystified or confused.
I did, however, hope to be
entertained and delighted. Though the plot could really only end one way, Friends with Kids should have at least
made me excited to get there. The only couple I found even slightly compelling
was Leslie and Alex, but they received far too little screen time as most of the
movie was spent watching Julie make sad doe eyes at everyone in her Banana
Republic sweaters.

I should perhaps give the film a bit of a
break because it might easily have been intended for an older, sadder crowd
full of baby-feelings who totally get it and think all of the boring, sad and
bitter things everyone says are super true to late thirties existence (bleak!). Maybe I am so entrenched within the self-entitled narcissism of my 18- to 25-year-old demographic that I cannot find value in anything outside of my market
niche. But I really hope this is not the case. As I prepare for graduation, I cling
to my belief that college will not be the last place to have friends or sex.

Speaking of
sex, Friends with Kids takes a
ridiculously antiquated and somewhat reactionary view of such pursuits. Of the
three main couples, only Missy and Ben seem to have sex. Missy and Ben are also
the couple that starts hating each other and split up dramatically. Leslie and
Alex have an explicitly lackluster love life and Julie and Jason only have sex
with each other once for the direct purpose of having a kid. The movie felt
like a PSA about how sex is the least important part of a loving
relationship, that it should be the last piece of the puzzle—deployed only as
a signifier of what two people already know, not a building block of any strong
relationship.

But back to
the entire premise of the film: kids! As quaint as the idea of replacing
“Friends with Benefits” with “Friends with Kids” seems, it reflects an unsettling
attitude toward both. Joe, the child who serves as the catalyst for all the
action, becomes little more than decorative set piece, occasionally
demonstrating how right Jason and Julie are for each other because they both
look so cute with him. But why do they even want a kid? Because they are
fundamentally boring people who need something to fill the hours they used to
spend with their friends? Basically, yes.

For all of this movie’s flaws, my
biggest critique is the simultaneous tedium and terror I
felt while watching it. Tedium because Julie and Jason are such uninteresting,
two-dimensional characters (a game of “would you rather” and a boob obsession
does not a nuanced character make), and terror because I hope desperately to
never, ever relate to this pre-midlife crisis ethos. Also, I love Adam Scott,
but he cannot pull off calling people “doll,” or dating Megan Fox.

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