"Friends With Kids," written, directed, produced by and starring the very talented Jennifer Westfeldt, is not your mother's romantic comedy.
The movie, which I caught an advanced screening of last week, was laugh-out-loud funny, but it was also at times heartbreakingly brutal.
"Friends With Kids" follows a tight group of friends -- two sets of marrieds (Maya Rudolph & Chris O'Dowd, and Kristen Wiig & Jon Hamm) and two singletons (Westfeldt and Adam Scott). When the married couples eventually have kids of their own, it's the single duo who feel sidelined. But they also witness just how life-changing parenthood can be. Despite that, they still want children of their own. That is, without the boring, at-times nasty and messy element of marriage.
So Julie and Jason (Westfeldt and Scott) decide to have a baby themselves -- while still being "just friends" and while dating other people.
The premise itself is clever and seemed, in some ways, like an ultra-modern nod to "When Harry Met Sally." After all, the first scene has Julie calling Jason, who lives in an apartment a few floors above her, asking how he would prefer to die. This adorably neurotic conversation had the same humor and intimacy as the late-night phone calls between Sally (Meg Ryan) and Harry (Billy Crystal), who would always read the last page of a book to find out the ending in case he died before finishing.
But on the flip side of that deep friendship were scenes of outright viciousness, mostly from the mouths of the marrieds. Whether it was dropping a litany of F-bombs while thundering orders (sometimes in front of their kids) or seething in silent hatred, the two couples really seemed to put the "lock" in "wedlock."
Avoiding that altogether is the plan that Julie and Jason concoct, but sharing intimacy and a baby while dating other people has consequences of its own.
I won't spoil the ending for you. The last line of the movie is both crude and poignant -- an emotional and romantic moment born out of an ultramodern version of that old-fashioned desire: Love.