Oftentimes, when we think of “love”, it is often either romantic or familial. Although many people understand that not all families are functional and healthy, and most people claim to love their platonic friends, this isn’t a love that too many of us see as being as valid or profound as the love between romantic partners. Friendships, while they often help us grow as people and give us the support to get through some of the more painful aspects of life, are often considered placeholder relationships and subsequently put on the back burner when someone has found “the one”. It is then expected that their romantic partnerships should come first and that any and all friendships are either demoted in priority, or terminated altogether.
For Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt), this isn’t at all the case. Currently in their mid-thirties, the two have been best friends since college and even live in the same building. While both of them have healthy dating lives, they have intimate inside jokes, always answer one another’s calls or texts, and consistently place the other’s interests ahead of any romantic pursuits. Their other friends are married couples Ben (Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristen Wiig), who are childless nymphomaniacs, and Alex (Chris O’Dowd) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph), who have two children and a sex life on life support. After talking it out, the still single and childless Jason and Julie decide that the “cure” for not losing a sex life after a child is if two friends have a child and raise it together, rather than taxing a relationship with someone they’re sexually attracted to and ultimately growing to resent or hate that person. The two decide that having a child together and dating as single co-parents is the ultimate answer, thus allowing them both to fulfill the desire for a child.
At first, their friends are skeptical, certain that this unconventional venture will never work, but Jason and Julie make co-parenting look like a breeze. As a result, they inadvertently test not only the limits of their friends’ marriages, but also forces them both to re-evaluate their ideas of romance and what it means to be in love. Julie and Jason’s parenting, built on shared goals and values, is seamless; they aren’t two people who wanted each other and gained a child as a result, only to learn that they have radically different ideas on child rearing. They planned for a child, and as a result, many of the weaknesses in relationships that are exposed when couples have children are expertly avoided.
But raising a child together doesn’t merely drive people apart. It can also bring them closer together. In spending more time with one another than they ever have, and seeing one another adapting to new roles, the already blurry boundary lines of Julie and Jason’s relationship become completely invisible, and what had started as the perfect arrangement becomes fraught with confusion and pain. In Friends with Kids, we not only get a new approach to family, but our concepts of friendship are also constantly challenged. The (often toxic) Western ideas that their must be an instant spark, uncontrollable lust, or the fulfillment of a “type” when one meets the love of their lives are dismissed as we delve into the realistic complexities of friendship, love, and parenthood.
I give this one 4 stars.