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“Friends with Kids” Netflix Review

friends with kids

How do best friends handle having a baby together?

Once again, I find myself watching something way outside my demographic. (I choose to look at it as being very mature for my age.)

Jennifer Westfeldt takes a shot at directing for the first time in a movie about how relationships change between friends and significant others when children come into the picture.

Julie (Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) play the central couple, best friends who’ve known each for years, and are so close at this point that they live in the same apartment building. Their relationship trajectory is made very clear from the opening scene of the movie: they both have one night stands, and once their partners have passed out drunk, they call each other and gossip.

While Julie is pleasant enough, Jason comes off mostly as an asshole (the script intended him to be a lovable asshole, I’m sure) whose character is mostly saved by the karmic brownie points Scott has built up over the year on Parks and Recreation. If anyone other than Scott had gotten the role, the kindness underneath the douchebag we all know he’s capable of playing up just wouldn’t have come through as well.

From time to time, the duo gets together with some of their college friends: Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Chris O’ Dowd.

Hamm and Wiig’s characters have one child, and it’s obvious from their constant bickering that their relationship is hurting. Meanwhile, Rudolph and O’ Dowd’s kid is just making the couple boring.

Julie and Jason are horrified with the way the relationships of their best friends have gone, and in a moment of drunken clarity they decide to have a kid together, figuring it will keep the messy relationship aspect out of the picture.

What follows is exactly what you’d expect: nothing goes according to plan, even after a brief period where their friends are shocked at just how perfect their scheme has seemed to work out. While Julie and Jason try in vain to keep their relationship from changing, the movie brings the relationships of their friends to the fore.

Westfeldt does a good job of showing the two very different courses relationships can take when stress (and not just from children, anything really) is added. However, in the film, going with the two extremes seems a little lazy. It would have been nice to see some more gray areas to the relationships we’re shown, instead of a “this couple will make it because of X and this couple will fail because of Y” scenario.

Like I mentioned though, this move has no gray areas: the relationships are all so clear cut – everyone falls into a perfect character type – to the point that you know exactly what will happen when. It’s too predictable.

The performances and chemistry between the core six is really what keeps this movie from falling apart altogether. There’s something about all these actors that’s so warm and friendly that you instantly like them (at least a little bit), all while completely buying into the fact that they’d be friends with one another.

Since the events are so parent-centric, it would have been nice if the kids were more incidental to the plot. It would have been great for even a scene or two where the kids seem like actual characters. Instead, they’re treated more like objects for their parents to pick up, change, and put back down. I get that they’re babies practically, but they barely even cry. It seemed unnatural.

This really boils down to a story about Jason and Julia falling in love. In the end, the child-rearing aspect is just window dressing for a romantic dramedy – something that this movie could have been much better than with a little more effort.

3-stars-out-of-5

  • Starring: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott
  • Directed by: Jennifer Westfeld
  • Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
  • Genre: Drama