BENSON: 'Listen, I've been writing stories for 11 years: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.''
LAW: 'Or girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy; love will find a way - love never loses; put your money on love; you can't lose. I'm getting hungry.''
-- "BOY MEETS GIRL," by Samuel and Bella Spewack, 1935
I confess: I am something of a rom-com aficionado -- at least, I used to be.
I cut my teeth on the kind of classic screwball comedies you have to look for on Turner Classic Movies: Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, The Lady Eve, It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday...
...I could go on, but you get the picture. I realize that my love of old Hollywood rom-coms just emphasizes how much older I am than most of my peers, who say they don't have the patience for (1) black and white, (2) lots of snappy (talky!) dialogue, and (3) references to events that occurred 50-80 years ago.
My list of favorite rom-coms includes some 21st century titles, too: Love, Actually, Bridget Jones' Diary, Notting Hill.
Yes, those are all British films with credits for Richard Curtis. And yes, the fact that I'm married to a Brit probably helps me relate to the English-ness of those movies. But like the classics of the golden age of romantic comedy, these movies are charming -- and memorable.
Compare those films to the rom-coms produced by Americans recently: films like The Ugly Truth, What Women Want, When in Rome, Maid of Honor, Life As We Know It...
I'll admit to being entertained by some of them - and appalled by others (The Ugly Truth was just plain ugly). But I was not charmed. And once I had seen them, I had no desire to watch them again and again.
So I went into last night's screening of Friends with Kids feeling a bit wary. It is being advertised as something of a Bridesmaids reunion, with Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd in supporting roles. But anyone expecting another iteration of the infamous scene in the bridal shop (where the entire party felt the effects of food poisoning while trying on dresses) will be sorely disappointed.
There are, however, a few poop jokes. This is, after all, a romantic comedy about what happens to romance once the kids arrive. And I confess to suffering some problems as the married couples in the movie: it's tough to get in the mood when your relationship shifts to child-rearing.
I have news for these parents of toddlers: It's just as difficult when the kids hit their teen years and not only know what it is you're thinking of doing, but they NEVER GO TO SLEEP and give you the time and space to do it. My advice is to start a fund now to finance romantic weekends away from home and cultivate friendships with other families you can dump your kids with so you can make those weekends happen.
Writer-Director-Star Jennifer Westfeldt has put together a stellar romantic comedy with an original premise: Best platonic friends Julie and Jason aren't judgmental at all when they conclude that parenthood killed the romance of the marrieds in their group. They decide they can have it all by having the baby BEFORE they settle on Mr. & Ms. Right.
Julie and Jason are so connected that they chat on the phone in the middle of the night while their dates are asleep beside them, so we know they'll be together at the end. That is, of course, the age-old formula: Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl. That part is easy. It's the execution of the formula that is difficult, and unless it's done with exactly the right light touch, there is no charm.
Fortunately, Westfeldt has plenty of charm to spare, and Adam Scott is perfectly cast as slightly slutty Jason. You know the type: He won't settle down with anyone less than the perfect woman (you know, one with intelligence and wit and big boobs). Who better to father your child, right?
Their friends think this is an appalling idea... so everyone (including the audience) is shocked when the baby comes and the arrangement seems to work. That is, until Jason does find the woman he thinks is Ms. Right.
Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig are terrific as the couple's married friends. Wiig was particularly touching in a role that shows her to be an actress and not just a comedian.
As an aside, while watching the film, I realized I've never seen Jon Hamm play anything but a sexist asshat (except his role in 30 Rock, where the character he played was simply stupid beyond belief). Hamm's role here is especially ironic when you consider that he and Westfeldt have been unmarried partners for 15 years. No, they have no children -- so you kind of wonder if this film is some kind of precursor to a new step in their lives?
SoCal Residents have an opportunity to ask them that question after a screening of Friends With Kids TONIGHT at ArcLight Hollywood, when both Jennifer Westfeldt and Jon Hamm will be on hand for a Q&A. I enjoyed the film so much, I have half a mind to drag the husband over there to see it again.