Whenever the movie Kissing Jessica Stein is on cable, I’ll watch it. It can be in the middle, towards the end, or even at the beginning. I will watch it. And I will watch it gladly. Of course the trailer below was cut to look like an episode of Friends but don’t hold that against the movie.
Co-written by its 2 leads, Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen, it’s a movie about a straight woman in NY who is so tired of the bs with men that she tries out a woman. But add in some very snappy dialog, insights into people’s actions, and some very realistic emotions and the movie rises above it’s basic description.
Jennifer Westfeldt, also better known as Jon Hamm’s significant other, recently wrote and directed a new movie whose parts make the whole.
Co-produced with Hamm, Friends with Kids stars Westfeldt, Hamm, Adam Scott and essentially half the cast of Bridesmaids: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd. Scott and Westfeldt play best friends who never really managed to become more. They are surrounded by their friends (everyone else listed above) who have paired off and started procreating. And that procreating changes them, not always for the better.
So Scott and Westfeldt decide they’ll have a kid, share custody, and then find their “person” without the pressure of having children. They think they can beat the system and have it all, without falling into the same problems they see with their friends’ relationships. An odd sort of concept, which is met with high skepticism by their friends, and in the end doesn’t really work out in the way they expected.
This isn’t a movie that sets out to defy your expectations. We all know all the romantic comedy tropes and overall the movie follows them – there’s the perfect man who just isn’t “the one”, the moment when one of the main characters realizes they’ve always been in love with the other (thankfully not in the rain here), etc. But what happens in Friends with Kids is that the darker side to all these things is explored with the same wit you’d expect from the writer of Kissing Jessica Stein.
Westfeldt isn’t afraid to make her boyfriend a jerk and Hamm does well in the role. Sure he’s had practice as Don Draper on Mad Men (back on March 25!!) and his character in Bridesmaids was, let’s face it, a dick. But what is different here is that he’s not just a jerk to be a jerk. There’s a reason. Adam Scott’s character can also be seen as a bit of a jerk – he openly lusts only after women who have big breasts and is totally unapologetic about it. But he’s not a blowhard to be a blowhard. He is caring and funny and you understand why he and Westfeldt’s character have been friends for years. He is just flawed like people are flawed.
The end is inevitable, but the road we take to get there isn’t exactly. There is a long scene with the whole cast at a ski lodge where everyone has to face some sort of truth, but it’s not played for laughs. I’m still thinking it. You see the dissolution of a relationship that at the start of movie was comprised of 2 people who couldn’t keep their hands off each other. You see a woman actually take ownership and control of her emotions in a way that doesn’t happen in the typical Katherine Heigl flick; her self-protection has reasons and isn’t there just to be a plot point that needs to be overcome.
And what I really loved was that the movie didn’t end with some big montage of everyone being happy together, at a kid’s birthday part, at a wedding, or at any other of the many many scenes that end these sorts of movies. It ends and you think, “well…is it going to work?” But you don’t get an answer. You think so. You hope so. But there’s no real answer.
The supporting cast is fabulous. Maya Rudolph should be in everything. She brings a humor and warmth to her characters that started with Away We Go and continues through Friends with Kids. Chris O’Dowd is goofy and loveable and seems like a guy I’ve met at some point. Kristen Wiig is worlds away from the annoying character actress she’s become on SNL and she handles the scene at the ski lodge with real delicacy and emotion. Hamm manages to be the aforementioned jerk without being wholly unlikable. As the possible romantic solutions, Megan Fox and Ed Burns aren’t immediately wrong just so the main characters find their way to each other. And who new Megan Fox didn’t have to be in awful…?
Scott and Westfeldt as the main characters just click. They have great timing together and their real-life friendship pays off on screen. You don’t want them to end up together because the movie tells you to – I’m looking at you pretty much every other romantic comedy in the past few years – but because it makes sense. Which seems like such an outlandish idea, it just might work. For me, it most definitely did.