Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
March 7, 2012
In “Friends with Kids,” platonic friends Jason (Adam Scott of “Parks and Recreation”) and Julie (writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt) decide, for lack of a better option, to have a baby together. Westfeldt says the decision might happen more often than we think.
“Since working on this film, both writing it and shooting and editing, I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, ‘Oh my God, a friend of mine propositioned me in just that way!’” says the 42-year-old actress/filmmaker. “I think it’s not a bad solution; I think as long as there’s love and commitment in a relationship and love for a child, a lot of non-traditional approaches can work.”
In fact, Westfeldt’s managers, a man and woman who are not romantically involved, recently had a baby together too. In the film, of course, a baby eventually complicates things between Jason and Julie, who are eager to avoid the way parenting harms the romance between their coupled friends (Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd and Maya Rudolph). Westfeldt, who has been dating Hamm and been friends with Scott for almost 15 years, chalks the cast’s overlap with “Bridesmaids” to “a wonderful coincidence.”
At the Trump Tower, Westfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein,” “Ira and Abby”) talked about the surprises that come with kids, her desire to challenge the status quo and if Hamm has adopted any Don Draper-like qualities over the years.
What is the rasher decision: Platonic friends deciding to have a kid together (like in “Friends with Kids”) or a woman who says, “Maybe I’ll become a lesbian” when she’s not finding a man (like in “Kissing Jessica Stein”)?
[Laughs.] Gosh. I don’t know. I guess there is this current running through the three films I’ve done, and they all sort of ask the same question about, “Why can’t we do it differently? Why can’t we change the rules?” If the person you find that you connect with the most just happens to be a girl, so what? Why can’t I do that? In “Ira and Abby,” if half of marriages end in divorce, don’t you have as good a shot with a stranger as you have with someone you’ve known forever? And in this one, if many relationships have a strain to their romance with parenting and that transition, why not do it with your best friend and keep romance with someone else?
So what’s the most extreme?
Gosh. What do you think is the most extreme?
I’m just here to ask the questions.
I think they’re all sort of extreme in their own way and yet they also make sense to me. I think I’ll have to think about that answer and get back to you.
People have been having children since humanity began.
That’s why we’re all here, right? Someone did that for us.
Why are people still so surprised by the impact when kids come along?
I think probably because everybody has this view of it as being the most incredible, joyful, amazing thing. Which it is, obviously, but people I think underestimate the challenge too, and the strain and the massive life shift that you have to make. The sacrifices, the compromises; it’s a game changer and it’s one that lasts forever. And most of my dear friends…, after they’ve had kids, when they’ve first become parents, they say, “This is the most inexplicable, most amazing love I have ever experienced, and it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” And I think that last bit is what surprises them. They expected the other, that the love is just beyond description, but I think that the challenges people don’t really talk about them as much.
Jason and Julie have some fun playing a “Would you rather?” game in the movie.
[Laughs.] Yes. A very morbid one, right?
So let’s do some of our own.
All right. Bring it on.
Would you rather go skydiving naked or wrestle an octopus?
I think skydiving naked. That would be kind of exciting. Without a camera. [Laughs.]
Live on the moon or eat only chicken fingers for a year?
I have no interest in living on the moon, so I’m going to have to go with chicken fingers.
Act in a movie written by monkeys or direct a cast of only monkeys?
I love monkeys. I love all things monkey. That would be fun for me to direct a movie with monkeys.
What can we expect from the family film spinoff, “Kids with Friends”?
Oh God! God. Jeez. I don’t know. I didn’t know there was going to be a spinoff, but I’d like you to get started on that and we can just be in discussions and we’ll figure it out. We’ll hatch something fun.
That seems like a firm commitment.
OK. Yeah. We’ll talk about it later, we’ll email through and maybe next year in a better winter we’ll shoot it.
What aspects of Don Draper have you seen oozing into Jon over the years?
[Laughs.] I hope not any! I think obviously he accesses whatever darkness is in him to bring that character to life, and I definitely utilize that here in this film too because I think he’s obviously a phenomenal actor. But one of those rare actors who makes darkness and the pain underneath that really compelling. So it felt like an interesting way to use him in this film to see him and Kristen as sort of the sexiest, the hottest, the most romantic couple, and their partnership deals with the most strain in relationship to parenting.
How much do your films present your own views of marriage and kids? You’ve been in a relationship for almost 15 years. Are people still pressuring you about marriage?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m an Aquarian, so that’s a very renegade sign. We like to do things in an unusual fashion. That is borne out of my life choices so far, being with the same man but unmarried and not having kids yet and all that jazz. I don’t know, in terms of my writers’ voice it does always interest me; why does the status quo have to be the status quo? Why can’t two consenting adults do whatever they want to do as long as they don’t hurt anyone or break any laws? [Laughs.] It does interest me, shifting things and changing the system.
Do you think you’ll ever get tired of the title of “boyfriend”?
Yeah, we never quite know what to say. It’s odd to say girlfriend or boyfriend after this many years and we sort of feel like an old married couple: a house and a dog and a will, all that stuff. I don’t know, there’s not a great term, right--significant other, better half.
So let’s invent one.
Yeah, we might need to invent one. Do you have a good idea?
Permanent … Man …
[Laughs.] “He’s my permanent man.” That doesn’t really roll off the tongue.
No, it doesn’t.
I gotta brainstorm on that, too. We have a lot of things to get back to.
On the use of Wilco music in “Friends with Kids”: “Well, I just love Wilco. Really all the music in the film represents artists I really, really love and respond to. But there’s something about Jeff Tweedy’s voice and the sound that they have that felt very much like the soundtrack to our movie. It felt like it represented the character of Jason, Adam Scott’s character, to me, it hit that vibe. And that tone. I love everything they do. But there’s something about their music, it’s moving and emotional but it’s also super hip and cool but not in a too cool for school way.”
On Chicago: “I love Chicago, a few of my best friends are from Chicago. I’ve been here four times mostly for press and one time to visit friends but I love this town. I know I’ve never been here in the dead of winter, which I hear is less fun. Just probably eat my way through the town because it’s known for great restaurants, right? I think I’d have to do the deep dish pizza, I’d have to check it all out.”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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