Hey, I got schwag, cool. I went to the E Street Cinema to check out this new movie, Friends with Kids (2012), and I’m about 5 minutes late. I forget that I can go to the kiosk and get my tickets there, so instead I go to the counter and I buy my ticket. In return, I received a cloth bag with two t-shirts, a door hang thing (“Baby Sleeping”), hand sanitizer, and, best of all, baby wipes. And a ticket, obviously.
Before I tried on the shirt I had this great line–it tickled me anyway–ready that when I put it on I had to find and wear my converse and buy the new Foster the People album, but when I put a white shirt underneath, its effects were lessened without direct contact with my skin. Then I washed it and put it on. First the small, which had shrunk to the size of an olive, then the large, which shrunk to the size of a tangerine.
I’m not a lover of the v-neck to begin with, as I think their either trendy or dirty, and these are so tight I look even fatter than I am. In point of fact, I can’t really see there’s much of a difference between the small (darker blue) and the large (light blue). It’s just as well because the sleeves are so short, they’re almost certainly for women. Well, it’s the thought that counts.
Then I saw a movie.
Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) is besties with Jason (Adam Scott). They have coupled friends Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd)–so basically the cast of Bridesmaids (2011). The couples have kids and think everything is going to be the same. Fast forward four years later. Not really the same. Julie and Jason, however, uncoupled as they are, are basically the same as before. Julie is set up with weirdos and Jason doesn’t keep a girl for longer than a week. Then, perhaps oddly, they all start hanging out together again and Julie/Jason wax psychological, or is it sociological, they wax socio-psychological on the marriage-children arrangement and find it lacking in optimality. What would be better, they think, is to have the kid and then find the “one” (which they gratifyingly never call it, I use quotes only as scare quotes). And here they are with a genetic partner ready to hand. Then they make one. A baby that they will raise together, each taking it half the time.
I went in expecting to see a Kristen Wiig movie, like Bridesmaids, but lighter on the comedy mallet and heavier on the child-rearing. Instead, what I got was a kind of Woody Allen-infused, love-is-hard movie with two actors I’m not too familiar with taking the lead. I wasn’t disappointed. Westfeldt, who also wrote and directed, really put something together here. There were bumps and judgment errors here and there, but mostly it found that marvelous key to success in comedy–chemistry. When you’ve got that, you’ve got yourself a movie that will, at a minimum, be a pleasant experience.
To that, she added some strong dialogue (for the most part) and some pretty real drama (for the most part). Both of those needed another look, but she went after some really great stuff, that aren’t easy to get perfect. I’d say, as a general matter, what she needed to do was slow some of those scenes down and let the actors do their jobs. I think that would have turned a good movie into a phenomenal one. It also would have limited the jumpiness of some of the scene changes.
Scott, physically, is so similar to Tom Cruise, that it’s alarming. I bet he does a mean Tom Cruise impression. Or maybe he doesn’t, maybe it’s too close to home. Scott is usually in the background in everything I’ve seen with him, so it’s interesting to see him as a main character. He was good, but I think he probably could have been great. In the scene pictured above, both Scott and Westfeldt make it a little too perfect and thereby undo a lot of work they spent making them human. That happens on occasion throughout, where Scott will defer to the way the script is written rather than making the words his own.
Westfeldt defers a lot of the emotion to Scott’s character in the later scenes when I feel like she’d have done better to do otherwise. Where the movie is best is when it looks at the messy bits of people’s lives–or at least those are the ones that get instant credibility–and I think she missed an opportunity there. That’s really to say that I think she did a very good job with the dramatic elements of her role. She was great. I’ll leave it at that.
The supporting cast was absolutely stellar. If this is going to be a continuing phenomenon of Wiig/Hamm and O’Dowd/Rudolph, then that’s fantastic. The former pair got the toughest gig, most definitely, but they hold up pretty well under the pressure. Really, that couple needed a couple more minutes of screen time to do Wiig’s character justice. Still worked. O’Dowd/Rudolph as the mostly-happy couple was perfect. One tip. Let’s just admit from the start that O’Dowd is Irish and we won’t have to think about it anymore. Even with a rough New York (I think) accent, the pair very nearly stole the show with the best material in the movie.
*After thought* There is a somewhat glaring issue with the movie and that is that the child, Joe, is not really a big part of the movie. What’s going on in his mind at one or two years old is probably very little, but we never get a glimpse of things from his perspective. And, while this is a hole that could have been filled to make a better film, Friends with Kids has a large enough cache to keep it from being a flaw.
What I really hope is that there was a bunch of deleted material that gets put back in for a dvd release. Even if it isn’t, I think I’ll buy it. Frankly, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more Westfeldt movies in future. I guess that means I have to watch Kissing Jessica Stein (2001).