Funny. Touching. Happy. Engaging. These are some of the words critics and fans have used to describe “Friends with Kids,” the latest movie from writer-actor and now director Jennifer Westfeldt. The film is available on XFINITY On Demand. In it, the talented 32-year-old, whose previous film credits include writing and starring in “Kissing Jessica Stein” and “Ira & Abby,” as well as numerous roles on TV, trains her razor sharp eye on couples, relationships, children, and what children do to love and friendships. With Adam Scott, Megan Fox, Kristen Wiig, and Edward Burns, she brought together a winning cast in rom-com with a kick. Or as Rolling Stone’s film critic Peter Travers said, “The laughs leave scars.” We chatted with Westfeldt, also known as “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm’s longtime squeeze, recently about the film and more, including why XFINITY TV subscribers should watch this movie. Keep reading to see what she had to say to you.
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What was the origin of this movie? What inspired it?
Really the origin was just watching so many of my closest friends one by one make this profound life change and transitions in becoming parents. And Jon and I don’t have children, and it is a funny thing to sort of be out of sync with your peer group, kind of how everyone handles the stuff their friends or something and identity shifts and priority shifts. And it sort of – at least for us – it felt like everybody had a slightly different way of handling it.
Is that good or bad?
It’s more like they all said they had never before experienced such a profound love as when they had a child. It was an inexplicable unbelievably deep love that they had never known before. And they also said it was the hardest thing they had ever done in their lives. And that duality was so interesting to me.
So there wasn’t any one incident where you kind of woke up and said this is sort of happened and profound and I’m going to write about it.
No, it was really over time just watching how the friendship changes, how the romantic dynamic changes among the couples who were sort of new parents, how you suddenly mourned the loss of the one on one time with your dear friend and they mourn it too. And of course, you understand why, but all of these things sort of transform and change and you suddenly don’t have the time to have an hour long conversation with your girlfriend that is really focused and, they first squeeze you in or fit you in when their baby is napping or they invite you to Mommy and Me with them or something that is a lot less kind of one on one time that you always cherished prior.
There’s some debate on whether this is a romantic comedy. What’s your take?
Yes, some people wouldn’t call this a romantic comedy. It might also be called an ensemble relationship film. Some people call it a drama. It is like one of those mixed tone films.
Did you think about any films or movie makers when you were writing this?
Certainly all of the early Woody Allen movies influenced me. I’m a big Billy Wilder fan. I loved almost everything Wes Anderson has done. Jim Brooks’ movies. I actually went back and re-watched [Lawrence Kasden’s] The Big Chill before we shot the Vermont section of the movie because I wanted to capture that kind of energy, or intimacy in the Vermont trip.
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Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?
There are few scenes that I guess maybe would be my favorite. I mean, certainly the big dinner confrontation in Vermont was the riskiest scene that I wrote in the film and the one that I think in some ways is the climax of the film. It is certainly where all the shit hits the fan, and where all eight of us are together and it is also – it is 10 minutes of the movie, so it is 10% of the film and I was really nervous about it – whether or not it would hold in terms of the length and how much kind of happens in it. But it was also incredibly exciting to have sort of the whole group together and to see and watch Adam and Jon square off in that way which I knew would be incredibly exciting. It was also a real challenge to shoot it, because it was such a long scene and we had to do it in one day. So that was a favorite.
And another favorite scene?
I think another favorite is the scene early on where we – Adam and I – first go to Alex and Leslie’s home for his birthday, and everything is chaotic when we walk in. That is another one that stands out.
Who is this movie for? Who should see it?
I have been surprised at the range of people who respond to it. Obviously we always felt our core audience was 26 to 46. But I’ve been surprised that people from my parent’s generation have really responded to it. I think that most people have kids, want to have kids, have friends with kids, or have a strong opinion about not having kids. It’s a subject that hits everyone in some way. But certainly that kind of late 20’s to early 40’s is, you know, the actual MO, and then I hope it extends from there. I have been surprised that young people have responded to the movie, people in college, which was a surprise to me. There’s something for everyone in terms of how they relate to it; and I think also people see different things based on where they are in their lives.
There are are so many movie choices on XFINITY On Demand. Why should subscribers watch this?
I think this movie is topical. People have talked about it as being part of the zeitgeist. I think people will enjoy the issues and the conversation. I think it is a product of people sort of putting off marriage, putting off kids later and later and later, what happens as a byproduct of that, and what happens if you end up in your 30s without that person yet wanting kids? I hope it does all that an more with humor as well. And I think this cast is – I’m so blessed to have this tremendous cast. I think they are all really, really wonderful in the film, and I also think every actor in this film is doing something that’s a little bit different from what you have seen them do before. I don’t think anyone knew Megan Fox could be as funny and sassy and self possessed as she is in this. I don’t think anyone has seen Kristen be as sort of quiet and dramatic as she is in this. I don’t think most people know that Adam Scott is a brilliant dramatic actor. There’s just a lot to see and think about in it, and I think it’s also a good time at the movies.