Friends With Kids

Written, directed, and starring Jennifer Westfeldt, this is her first foray into directing. Westfeldt became an indie star with KISSING JESSICA STEIN (2001), which she co-wrote with Heather Juergensen and directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld. Among the cast was Westfeldt’s real-life boyfriend, Jon Hamm.

We all know what happened to Jon Hamm. He has become the sexiest man on TV playing seductive womanizer Don Draper on MAD MEN.

In FRIENDS WITH KIDS, Westfeldt has put together a group of very talented comedians to surround her character. But this is Westfeldt’s movie and it is structured as a love letter to herself.

First time directors should not direct a movie starring themselves. Where is the objectivity? Where is the care given to the other actors and actresses? When you are directing yourself, who says: “Let’s do another take” and “Show me more emotion.” How about: “You’re doing that Diane Keaton thing from ANNIE HALL again.”

Aside to directors of rom-coms: Never hire an actress who has seen ANNIE HALL. Keaton’s performance has tainted nearly every actress in a romantic comedy.

Westfeldt should have asked her friends to recommend a quick-witted co-writer. I was expecting some clever lines and an edgy movie. How about real life? Since Westfeldt is 41 years old and she and Hamm have not married or have children, FRIENDS WITH KIDS would have been more interesting if it were closer to the reality she knows.

Julie (Westfeldt) lives in the same building as her very best friend Jason (Adam Scott). Their circle of close friends include two couples, Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd) and Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm). Julie has no success with men but Jason is a hound dog – a one night stand sex magnet.

All four of Westfeldt’s ensemble cast were in BRIDESMAIDS. Hamm and Wiig were sensational in their bedroom scenes. Wiig and her co-writer Annie Mumolo are genius.

Will there be a BRIDESMAIDS 2? The huge box office of BRIDESMAIDS makes a sequel inevitable, but Wiig has said she and writing partner Annie Mumolo are not going to do it. It has been rumored that Wiig was offended by the mere $100,000 bonus Universal gave all six principal cast members. BRIDESMAIDS was made for $32 million and grossed $288 million for Universal.  Well, Universal must hold the rights to the title, sequels, and the characters since Universal has said it may do a sequel without Wiig and Mumolo! Universal is looking for writers.

Universal is looking for THE HANGOVER PART II numbers. The sequel’s domestic total gross was $254,464,305.

But Westfeldt was not interested in following her friend Wiig’s successful template. Julie is just so beautiful, kind and nurturing, her failure at finding the right man is questionable. Jason, on the other hand, is no Michael Fassbender.

Flash forward four years. Leslie and Alex are married with two children. Worn-out Leslie is a ballbuster. Alex is pussy-whipped. Worn-out Missy and Ben are married, have a child, and do not have wild sex like they had before they married. Julie and Jason look at them with horror. Yet, Julie wants a baby – her grandfather clock is ticking loud – so she asks Jason to impregnate her. They will raise the child jointly and remain best friends without any emotional or sexual commitment.

Thus, they will never become like Leslie and Alex or Missy and Ben.

You know what happens. We saw it in THE NEXT BEST THING and THE SWITCH. Julie, after years of no romantic prospects, meets hunky, wonderful Kurt (Edward Burns). Jason falls in lust for Broadway dancer Mary Jane (Megan Fox). All four couples go on a ski weekend and Jason and Ben get into a heated argument. They step outside their established characters and pound the table, bring out the swords and roll around on the floor. Ben then turns really ugly and verbally humiliates Missy. His is that tried and true complaint – no restaurant bathroom sex! They don’t pick up a stripper for three-way sex anymore.

Julie was the pretty girl in the group, now MJ has the men’s attention – she’s younger, sexier, thinner, and on Broadway! Julie becomes jealous and suddenly realizes she is in love with Jason.

In a scene we have been waiting for, Julie declares her love to Jason. He looks astonished and says MJ is moving in with him. He goes one step too far – he tells Julie he is not sexually attracted to her. Saying that to a woman buries a man forever. He evaporates, he turns to dust.

Unfairly wounded Julie – she got what she wanted, a child without any commitment but now wants the guy – moves into a Brooklyn townhouse and begins to have a full, toy-filled life. No spoiler here – you know what happens.

Member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/ and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/

 

Victoria’s weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday.

http://www.fromthebalcony.com/editorials.php. If you would like to be included on Victoria’s private distribution list for a weekly preview, just email her at masauu@aol.com.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email. You can contact Victoria directly at masauu@aol.com.

 

 

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