My friends preparing for our last home football game at WFU
I was first interested in Friends with Kids because I heard it was written, directed, and starred in by Jon Hamm’s long time girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt. I was hooked once I saw the trailer: the movie seemed like a hilarious adaptation of the (almost) over-done ‘falling in love with your best friend’ shtick. Somehow, though, Friends with Kids made the familiar story line seem brand-new.
The set-up is this: a group of six friends, three men and three women live the fabulous life in New York City. Two pairs in the group are married to one another. The remaining two are best friends, who can’t quite grasp the whole ‘dating and marrying’ thing. Jason, played by Adam Scott, and Julie, played by Jennifer Westfeldt, have been best friends since college, and now that they are approaching the golden age of forty, are beginning to second guess themselves. Jason and Julie notice that all of their ‘married-with-kids’ friends are losing their love for their spouses and shifting it onto their children, effectively ruining the spark in their friendship and, eventually, their marriages. After a night out drinking wine at a bar, Julie and Jason decide that they are the perfect couple to have a kid together: since they don’t romantically love each other, they will never lose their best friend love for each other! Their child will always be in a healthy environment. The great part about this movie is that I honestly believed them in the first half. I honestly thought that they had been friends for so long that they had gotten beyond the unavoidable chemistry that exists between guy and girl friends. After all, after Julie becomes pregnant, Jason finds his ‘perfect woman’ (played by Megan Fox, go figure), while Julie finds an extremely handsome and gentlemanly divorcé, who proceeds to fall in love with her.
My favorite aspect of this movie is how true to reality it is. It captures the extremely scary and disappointing aspects of marriage, having kids, and falling in love. A married couple falls apart as a subplot, and watching the two shift from being crazy-in-love newlyweds to resentful parents is absolutely heartbreaking…and extremely real. The second couple is trapped in a never-ending argument, but somehow manages to stay in love. Finally, best friends think they can cheat the age old rule that men and women cannot be friends. And, of course, the audience is left to watch that all-too-familiar scenario of one person falling for the other, while the feelings are unreciprocated.
In short, the acting in the movie is fantastic, the emotions that each character feels are raw and ugly, and the actors aren’t afraid to be true about what happens in the real world. I honestly felt as though I was feeling the same emotions every time I saw a character on screen. Friends With Kids successfully transforms a typical romantic comedy plot into so much more: it is funnier, more realistic, and has a better soundtrack. However, the true beauty of this movie is its enthralling depiction of the anxious nature of someone who is in love, and risks losing everything.
For the first ten minutes of this movie, I had no idea what was going on. It was some sort of an artsy montage, featuring stills from the movie I was about to watch, set to a score of classical music. During this time, I read a magazine, hoping this part would end soon.
Finally the montage ended and the first part of the movie, named after Kirsten Dunst’s character, began. The opening scene was my favorite part of the entire movie, which probably tells you something about either my attention span or the movie’s progression. Anyways. It featured a happy newlywed couple in their limo, en route to their reception. The issue is, they are stuck at a sharp turn on a rural driveway. The limo driver cannot seem to back up the limo enough to make the turn, so the groom has his go at it. Kirsten Dunst, resembling a cupcake, gets out of the limo to help the groom navigate. After a long session of giggles and failed three-point turns, Kirsten squeezes her dress into the driver seat and has her go at it. Finally, the couple arrives two hours late to their party, greeted by Kirsten’s resentful sister.
The rest of the wedding party is a whirl of Kirsten’s clear bipolar disorder. One moment she is in a haze of romantic lust, the next she is in a bath wearing her wedding dress. This goes on for an hour, after which the movie shifts to Kirsten’s sisters segment, centered around the impending collision of Earth and the planet Melancholia, and the subsequent end of human life. This segment successfully explores the different ways human beings cope with the threat of an apocalyptic event, and ultimately how a human interacts with the emotion of hope.
Bottom line? This movie was extremely interesting, but I never felt connected to the characters in a way where I felt their emotions. Instead, I simply observed their multiple breakdowns from an extremely disconnected position. A rainy movie for a rainy day, indeed.