Friends with Kids is smarter than the status quo up until the final five minutes. That’s when Jason (Adam Scott) turns his car around in busy New York traffic to speed over to Julie’s (Jennifer Westfeldt) apartment for the predictable, cliché close. The movie is better than the genre suggests, even as a romanticized New York story.
And, don’t worry. That’s not spoiling anything, unless you’ve never seen a romantic comedy before. They always end how the target audience wants them too, and that’s okay here. Scott and Westfeldt have a real on-screen connection to each other, certainly one deserving of more than the city run to embrace each other.
Friends with Kids is calculated, a spunky comedy that flows into a heart felt drama as breakdown occurs. Focused on three couples entering a phase of life that brings far too many kids into the mix, Friends takes a familiar and awkward look into this transition, along with the effects. Comedic zingers are solely based on reality or the awkwardness that reality can create.
At the center of it all are near 40-somethings Jason and Julie, the two best friends who are meant for each other but keep putting off the inevitable. With their close friends having kids, they decide to go for in on a baby together, albeit without the strings attached. “It’s strictly 50/50,” according to the walled Jason who dives behind crude comedy to avoid expressing emotions.
That leaves Julie, and Westfeldt’s honest performance, to pull the emotional card. She’s the transitional character who smoothly pushes the narrative into its second phase. Babies take their toll, seemingly sound relationships fracture, while Jason and Julie try to fill the hole in their lives with escalating results. Somewhere in the mix is a wasted Kristen Wiig as a flustered house wife trying to keep the pieces together.
Friends pushes to a close with satisfactory results, at least in terms of character, this after some aimless plot wandering. Each set of couples finds their happy medium – or so we assume – as the credits roll. There’s room for failure, but it’s comfortable, strong development leaving any doubts discussion worthy for the audience. It’s a nice mix of natural laughs and weighted lows, capped with a determined Hollywood finish because that’s what movies do.
Friends with Kids loves to shoot New York at night, skylines dominate and showy from this digital production. Black levels are marvelously dense with a rare consistency that keeps them focused on the goal of dimensionality. Daylight will counter with a heavy contrast that has the same effect… just, well, brighter. Duh?
Anyway, Jennifer Westfeldt stars and directs, making an apparent call to smooth out her face that is nothing short of unnatural. The drastic difference in appearance, along with the slightest light filter, is damaging to the definition that is so precise elsewhere. Close-ups are all precision, and so are medium shots, which keeps the visuals dynamic on Blu-ray.
Friends AVC encode is also clean, a rarely noisy production that carries the benefits of digital without any of the lesser qualities. Even noise that does creep in is conquered by the encode, never rising above the level of a typical grain structure. Low light poses no added challenges.
The film bleeds inviting warmth, restaurant interiors glazed with romantic light, while homesteads are loaded with heavy primaries that steer warm without causing a loss of vividness. Flesh tones are pure, color timing or not, and the city benefits from dazzling hues. Shots taken during the fall months are stunning with the variety of leaves splashing varying tones across the screen. Pleasant.
There’s some fun to this dramadey’s sound mix, effectively calm except when intended to be noticed. A party inside a baby-loaded apartment ramps up the activity in the surrounds. Kids begin crying in other rooms with an appropriate drop in levels coming through the bedroom walls while more active little ones romp around, tracking in the proper channel.
Those moments have to be accentuated over everything else, rather droll and lifeless, even the city streets. Some people would kill for a version of New York this quaint or sonically comfortable. Even a ski lift has more activity going on, with motors taking passengers to the top of the run and tourists running around. That’s a bit odd. But, it’s not hard to maintain balance when you’re dealing with so little, so that’s something.
Writer/star/director/producer Jennifer Westfeldt joins actor/producer Jon Hamm and cinematographer Williams Rexer for a commentary, one that spills out onto some other features. Scene 42 compares script to finished product with the crew adding their notes optionally, and Megan Fox teaches Adam Scott how to play a video game which apparently needed commentary too. Oh, and there’s eight deleted scenes… also with chatter from the trio.
The only thing without voice over commentary? Ad-libs and bloopers, split over two sections for 12-minutes worth watching.
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