Clever NYC rom-com lacks credibility
This romantic comedy tries to be all things to all people with its cutesy, erudite banter coupled with coarse language and a myriad of characters ranging from sweet to self-centered. Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt, the co-writer and director of “Kissing Jessica Stein,” this is another NYC-based look at love and marriage — and children.
Westfeldt also stars as Julie, a late 30-something single whose biological clock is ticking so loudly the neighbors are complaining. All her friends save for Jason (Adam Scott), an old college pal, are now married. Some like Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd) already have kids and it’s clear that the pressures that come with parenting are putting a strain on their relationship.
Misty (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm) are just so into each other that they don’t really discuss the idea until Misty gets pregnant, also putting a strain on their marriage — a fact that worries both Julie and Jason, who want kids without ruining the romance.
This leads to the improbable solution they arrive at — having a child together while maintaining their platonic love for one another. So to recap: Julie is the mother of Jason’s child and vice versa, but she meets and begins dating Kurt (Edward Burns), a really nice regular sort of guy, while Jason falls head over heels for a Broadway dancer, sexy Mary Jane (Megan Fox).
If the romantic comedy genre has taught us anything, it is that this will not work. It is only a matter of time before Julie and Jason realize they should be together. Unfortunately, there are unflattering sides to these characters that leave you wondering what they see in one another. Julie is an indecisive whiner and Jason is a serial dater who emphatically (and graphically) explains to Julie why she isn’t his type — not once, but several times during the course of the movie.
This is hardly a set up for the inevitable conclusion in what amounts to what could have been an extended episode of “Friends.” Particularly the character of Jason is not only an immature womanizer, but he’s also a narcissist, albeit a nice narcissist, who is still as selfish as his friends continuously allow him to be, which makes Julie’s realization that she loves him even harder to comprehend.
One thing that works is the cast, even if some, like Wiig, are given so little to do. Look closely at some of the actors attached to this and a pattern emerges. Four of them — Wiig, Hamm, O’Dowd and Rudolph — worked together in the huge hit from last summer, “Bridesmaids.” If only they could have broken out some of the funny from that movie, instead of the naughty dialog Westfeldt wedges in to appease the Judd Apatow crowd.
Westfeldt does capture the schizophrenia of parenthood pretty well. Leslie and Alex bicker about diaper changes, but there are scenes that affirm they do love each other and are prepared for what comes. Misty and Ben are the shallowest of the group, establishing a union based purely on physical attraction and falling apart when they go from a couple to a family.
This is a clever little film, but as a realistic take on modern-day parenting, it never quite gels. Friends with kids aren’t friends for long.