Monday, March 12, 2012

having jessica stein’s baby

I’ve always had problems watching movies and TV shows about people at the same life stage I am. I think this would be interesting news to marketers, who seem to think people don’t read/view outside their own demographics, unless vampires are involved. But when I was in middle school, I hated watching The Wonder Years because Kevin had gotten his first kiss and I hadn’t. When I was in high school, I wouldn’t watch My So-Called Life because Angela had gotten her first kiss and I hadn’t. And so on.

Therefore, I went into Friends With Kids with trepidation—but it looked sort of funny, and AK doesn’t want to see The Descendants for some reason. In a way, I needn’t have worried. As AK pointed out, it’s not so much a movie about wanting to have kids when all your friends do, or even trying to have kids, as it is a movie about having a kid with your friend and then trying to make room for romance.

And it’s a good thing it’s not about people trying to have kids, because of course the two 37-year-old friends in question (Jennifer Westfeldt and Adam Scott, weirdly miscast as an over-sharing playa) seem to get pregnant on the first try without so much as an ovulation testing kit in sight. In other pet peeve news, this is also one of those movies about rich people in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but which pretends they are middle-class people in Anywhere, USA.

Despite all that, and some trying-too-hard banter, it was pretty funny. And sometimes brutally honest. What does it say about me that my favorite scene was the one in which an angry, drunk Jon Hamm chews out Scott and Westfeldt for not thinking through their whimsical decision to have a baby? I was like, Damn right! Just because I need to believe there’s some inherent value in two years of prep work, even though I know better. At the same time, I totally bought Scott’s defense, which was that he couldn’t have picked a better baby-mama than the girl he’d known for 19 years. It’s a mark of a good movie when you side with both characters in an argument.

Now I’m going to give away the ending, which is a total surprise unless you’ve seen the trailer or even the poster for the movie: After many tearful monologues and dalliances with Mr. and Ms. Not-Quite-Right, Westfeldt and Scott get together. This family may have begun in a brave new world in which kids have two moms (as Maya Rudolph’s character cites as proof that times they are a-changin’), but it ends in nuclear suburban bliss (Brooklyn being the cinematic equivalent of suburbia).

I didn’t really expect anything different from writer/director Westfeldt, who also brought us Kissing Jessica Stein, another movie I almost liked, in which the title character tries dating women and ends up with a dude. Because Westfeldt and her characters are sort of endearing, you buy their individual narratives: No, no, queer relationships and nontraditional parenting arrangements are totally cool and valid, but, like, for this particular pretty blonde lady, they just happen to be bullet points on her coolness resume that make her mainstream landing place that much more “earned.” Enjoy that bone you were just thrown, queer people and people with nontraditional parenting arrangements. Your own movie—in which your story is the happy ending, not the stepping stone—is coming soon to a tiny film festival nowhere near you.


raardvarks said...

Right on with the last paragraph. My girlfriend tried to get me to see KJS, and after skimming the synopsis on the internet, whined "Icaaaan't!" Immature activism for the win!

Cheryl said...

I mean, it's not a bad movie (although it's not un-missable either). And it's not that I'm one of those queers who doesn't believe in bisexuality. It's just that sometimes...yeah, what you said.