POSTED March 8 2012

Jennifer Westfeldt’s Boisterous ‘Friends With Kids’

Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt

Sex, said Woody Allen, is the most fun you can have without laughing. Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends With Kids may well be the most fun you can have without sex. This is a breakout movie from a gifted writer/actress who, being slim, strawberry-blonde, urban-neurotic and funny, often has been called “a female Woody Allen.”

A highly-strung talent who wrote and starred in the relationship comedies Kissing Jessica Stein and Ira and Abby, Westfeldt wrote, stars and makes her directorial debut with this piquant portrait of best chums (Westfeldt and Adam Scott) who enter in an unusual arrangement. The dialogue races at the speed of Manhattan. The jump cuts and blackouts underscore Westfeldt’s snappy comic rhythm. She is a better director of her own material than her prior colleagues.

After seeing marriages unravel when couples have children, Westfeldt and Scott come up with a novel design for living. They will have a baby, share custody and pursue other romantic attachments. They’ve done the math and decide it would be better to be “100 % committed to this half the time” and remain friends than risk subjecting their spawn to a toxic divorce. It’s a premise that sets the stage for an edgy observational comedy that, like her previous screenplays (Jessica Stein was about a heterosexual heroine who has a lesbian romance, Ira and Abby about a couple who marries impulsively), focuses on characters who think there might be other, better, ways to couple.

The film co-stars most of the Bridesmaids cast — Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm (Hamm is Westfeldt’s real-life partner) — plus Ed Burns and Megan Fox. Though Wiig’s and Hamm’s performances have the feel of actors who have parachuted in from their day jobs, Westfeldt proves herself a deft director of actors, particularly of Scott and Fox.

Do I think Westfeldt is a female Woody Allen? Nope. I think her warm-and-prickly humor — as opposed to the warm-and-fuzzy texture of the typical romantic comedy — is unique to her.

Seen Westfeldt’s prior films? Any comparables out there?



  1. Joe says:

    In a word, “yes.” This is a most accomplished comedy-drama. Solid. Witty. And often touching.

  2. wwolfe says:

    I’m very much looking forward to this, having seen “Kissing Jessica Stein” several times on TV. (Some cable channel must play it a lot, because there have been several weekend afternoons where I’ve stumbled across it and decided to re-watch.) On the other hand, I hadn’t even heard of “Ira and Abby” until right now. The movie biz is remarkably capricious. As a writer, Westfeldt has a knack for writing roles that give good actors a chance to shine – I’m thinking of Scott Cohen and Tovah Feldshuh in “Stein.” I could practically hear them thinking, “Ah! I actually have a real part to play!” during some of their scenes. I suspect that helps her attract talented people to her projects.

  3. Debbie R says:

    Your brilliant opening had me catapulting into the rest of the review. The brilliant rest-of-the-review has me catapulting over to see the film. Hmm… where is the brilliant film likely to catapult me?

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  5. Carrie Rickey says:

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  6. jean says:

    Hi, Carrie, dying to see the movie after reading your review. One little thing I have to comment on: “it would be better to be “100 % committed to this half the time and remain friends than risk subjecting their spawn to a toxic divorce”. Most kids aren’t subjected to toxic divorces, they’re subjected to toxic marriages that their parents never leave. The kids I work with whose parents did leave are doing better than the kids whose parents stay, continue to hate each other and expose their children to the so-called intact nuclear family forever and ever. Sorry for the tangent but working with families and trying to bring it back to the movie, it will be interesting to see Westfeldt’s take on “what children need”.

  7. Buck says:

    Bless you for spending some time to describe the terminlogy for the noobs!

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