Jennifer Westfeldt works wonders with ‘Friends With Kids’

Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in ‘Friends With Kids’

Jennifer Westfeldt is a serious talent.

Writer and star of 2001’s Kissing Jessica Stein and 2006’s Ira & Abby, this time in addition to doing double duty as screenwriter and star, she also steps behind the camera to produce and direct.

I searched the credits for anything else she might have done in the making of this gem, but apparently those four roles were enough to keep her busy.

Jennifer is “Julie Keller,” a successful, attractive woman living in a rent-stabilized Manhattan apartment, seperated by 8 or so floors from her best friend in the world, “Jason Fryman” (Adam Scott).  They share long conversations, explore the difficult questions of life (such as would you rather die by alligator or shark), and face life’s ups and downs together, always there for one another.  They are the “virtual” couple alongside the two couples they are closest to, “Ben” (Jon Hamm) and “Missy” (Kristen Wiig), and “Alex” (Chris O’Dowd) and “Leslie” (Maya Rudolph).

Ben and Missy are so warm for each other’s form that the list of places they have NOT had sex is very short, while Alex and Leslie announce that “they” are pregnant when the six come together for a meal in the film’s early going.  Meanwhile, Julie has trouble finding quality guys while Jason is getting plenty of action, but nothing of a lasting nature.

Fast forward four years and things have changed.  Both of the other couples have kids, with Alex and Leslie having reproduced more than once.  The couples don’t socialize as often as they used to, and little has changed with Julie and Jason except that both are feeling the desire to reproduce.  So, the couple decides after a discussion, to have sex one time.  Together they will split the expense and responsibilities of raising the child they create together and after the child’s birth, both will go out and find their perfect partner.

They manage to have a son named Joe, and after some weeks, both meet what appears to be their perfect mate.

Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd in ‘Friends With Kids’

For Jason it’s “Mary Jane” (Megan Fox) who is a dancer with an incredible body and very little instinct to nurture or care for anyone but MJ.  She even mentions at their first meeting that she believes herself to be totally incapable of being respondible for any other living thing.  Julie meets “Kurt” (Edward Burns) at an event where Leslie has arranged for her to “bump” into him.  Kurt is divorced, has his own kids, is grown up, and basically the poster boy for future male mates.

The road to this point in the film is filled with funny moments.  The audience was enthralled with the writing of the picture and the execution of its very witty dialogue by the ensemble cast.  The tension that Westfeldt manages to infuse between all of the couples she has brought together is done neatly and ratchets up considerably from this point forward.

Some are wonderful directors who cannot really act unless someone else directs them.  Some are wonderful actors who can’t direct themselves even if it were a matter of life and death.

Westfeldt is neither, and her strong acting ’chops’ don’t suffer from her work behind the lense here.  She handles the routines of life that can be quite challenging and manages to bring forth humor and pathos from it all.

Exploring the question of whether or not a man and woman can remain friends in spite of everything may result in a predictable ending but getting there was all the fun.

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