Monday, 12 September 2011

Toronto International Film Festival review - Friends With Kids

Dir.: Jennifer Westfeldt
With: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Megan Fox

I find that the past decade has been colonised by very poor comedies. For some reason, Hollywood producers seem to think that your gender defines your type of humour – if you are male, you would go and see gross-out comedies, as a woman you would be expected to enjoy romcoms; both types got more and more heartless, synthetic and forced with time. Of course, there were a few good ones like “Superbad” and “Legally Blonde” but these exceptions confirm the general trend rather than defy it. It is sad to think that the days when comedies could be enjoyed by both men and women equally and had a coherent storyline are gone.

With all this in mind, it is a great pleasure for me to introduce you to “Friends with Kids”, an indie comedy that just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed and starred in it as Julie, a 30 something New Yorker with a close bunch of friends (most of the cast from "Bridesmaids"). Her closest friend is Jason, played by Adam Scott, together they begin to notice how the rest of their friends’ lives change once they start having children. Although both Julie and Jason want children at some point in their lives, it is the marriage aspect they wish to avoid. So, they come up with what appears to be the perfect solution – having a child together and raising the baby on equal terms, as friends.

The best thing about the movie is the dynamic in the group – it feels so realistic, the dialogues sound natural, in a way you could undoubtedly imagine your own friends speak the same way. Each individual in the group represents a certain type of friend, lover, partner and parent – you end up recognising yourself or people you know and relating to each character. There is a lot of warmth and heart in this picture and I am pretty sure that it won’t leave you untouched. Another extremely impressive aspect of it is the humour – it is very finely calibrated and combines raunchiness, irony, slapstick and satire. The audience were laughing constantly throughout the film. One of the funniest moments in it was the most awkward and cringe worthy sex scene I’d ever seen – when Julie and Jason try to conceive – just imagine having sex with your closest friend of the opposite sex….brrrr… I still have goose bumps.

There are two revelations in the film – Adam Scott, who is a great romantic lead, with much charisma and perfect comedy timing. He also delivers a wonderful speech in the movie, defending his decision to have a child with his best friend – it hits so close to home and leaves you quite shaken. Additionally, Megan Fox now appears to have shed her vixen image and fits in well with the rest of the crew, as a beautiful dancer with no patience for children. Her performance is unforced and quite down-to-earth.

During the Q&A session after the film, Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm and Megan Fox went on stage to answer some of the questions. Turns out that Adam and Jennifer are very old friends, which makes sense when you think of their amazing onscreen chemistry. The script took Jennifer four years to complete and I am very happy to report that her labours produced a funny, charming and soulful film, to be enjoyed by all shapes and sizes – a rare beast these days. The distribution dates are still to be confirmed, I will write more once they are.

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