shiftmaine.com, they could see that I was a big fan of the 2001 romantic comedy, Kissing Jessica Stein, a girl-meets-girl story about a woman who decides to try to become physically/sexually attracted to other women. It starred (and was written by) Jennifer Westfeldt, and it was a humorous blend of drama, love and desire. Last year's Friends With Kids--also starring and written by Ms. Westfeldt--falls into that same category: a romantic comedy that's smart and different about the strain that having a child puts on a relationship, whether between two lovers...or two friends. Like Kissing Jessica, it's a pleasant surprise that propels Jennifer Westfeldt into the hierarchy of top chick-flick writers, and it's film that men should be happy to watch with their significant others instead of the typical, cliche, moronic feces that gets diarrhea-ed into theaters every week.
Friends With Kids focuses on three couples in love and friendship. Mainly, we see Jason (Adam Scott, revelatory in this starring role) and Julie (Westfeldt), two long-time friends who have known each for years and live in the same building in New York. These two are not in love, but their platonic connection makes them ideal friends: they know each others' values and insights, they finish each others' sentences, and they constantly tell each other about various men and women who they date, sometime graphically. Alex and Leslie (Bridesmaid's Chris O'Dowd and Maya Rudolph) are a fairly normal couple, with the typical amount of love and bickering, and when they decide to have a child, it puts the thought into Julie and Jason's head that their biological clock is ticking faster and faster. Ben (Jon Hamm, in a good change-of-pace role from Don Draper on AMC's Mad Men) and Missy (Kristen Wiig) round out the friend group, and they portray a couple that constantly emerge from bathrooms and other public places with an orgasmic glow (until they have children, too, of course).
Flash forward a few years later, and Julie and Jason are seeing what their friends are going through: once the two other couples have had children, the lack of sex, disappearance of sensuality and prominence of poop in their lives has turned them bitter and less fun-filled. Despite all of this, Julie and Jason take a huge life step: they decide to have a child then share the custody and continue their own, separate journey through love. That's the premise of Friends With Kids, and the adventure in baby barf, arguments, and observations about parenting and funny and fruitful. In a film such as this, with its typical romantic comedy set-up (Will Julie and Jason realize that resistance if futile? Will they fall in love, once their friendship produced a child?), the ending might seem predictable. But the sharp and shrewd screenplay, along with the touching performances of all involved, heaves it high above the heap of 2011's chick-flick fare.