FRIENDS WITH KIDS – Review by Susan Granger

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Social commentary makes relevant filmmaking, as evidenced by perceptive writer/director/producer Jennifer Westfeldt, who reveals how parenthood defines character in this witty, contemporary romantic comedy.

Julie Keller (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason Fryman (Adam Scott) are single, thirty-something best friends since college who live in the same rent-controlled Manhattan apartment building. As the story begins, they’re dining at a chic restaurant with their closest chums – two married couples – Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd) – exchanging comic banter and staring with contempt at parents who have brought noisy kids until, suddenly, Leslie reveals that she’s pregnant.

Four years later, Julie feels her child-bearing time-clock ticking. Down-to-earth Leslie and Alex have two children and have decamped to Brooklyn, while Missy and Ben have a son, although their once-passionate sexual relationship has disintegrated into contempt. So Jason agrees to impregnate Julie, offering to share caring for their offspring on alternate evenings, so she can continue to search for Mr. Right. “This is clean, simple,” he declares about their social experiment. And after the birth of their baby, that seems to work, as Julie takes up with sensitive, divorced Kurt (Edward Burns) and Jason gloms onto sexy dancer Mary Jane (Megan Fox). But then a stress-filled confrontation on a Vermont getaway changes everything – and a fadeout closes the story, giving a sense that life goes on.

After achieving screenwriting/producing success with “Kissing Jessica Stein” and “Ira and Abby,” Connecticut-born, Yale-educated Jennifer Westfeldt makes her directorial debut, working with her real-life partner Jon Hamm from TV’s “Mad Men.” Westfeldt’s strong suit is delineating articulate, adventuresome characters and building nervous tension as they come face-to-face with harsh, everyday reality. That’s obviously what brought Mike Nichols and Jake Kasdan on-board as executive producers, along with the “Bridesmaids”-experienced acting ensemble.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Friends With Kids” is an edgy, amusing 7, distinguished primarily for its timely, perceptive observations about the nature of friendship and the definition of family in the 21st century.

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