Home > Navel-Gazing: Hard Lessons from “Friends with Kids”
Navel-Gazing: Hard Lessons from “Friends with Kids”
We once considered ourselves happy, optimistic people. But then we saw Friends with Kids. We’ve spent the last few days unpacking the life lessons put forth in this deceptively lighthearted rom-com that will actually unnerve you to your core. If you’re in the mood to read broody ramblings on the nature of relationships written by two wayward women on a rainy Wednesday, then by all means, continue on. But if you’d like to feel good about life, may we suggest you stop here and read this, this, or even this instead. For all those who are still here, let’s get this party started!
Relationships Hurt, and Most People Get It Wrong
Renae: Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know this movie was intended to be uplifting. It was supposed to be a heartfelt story about the challenges and complexities of coupledom. But I can’t really access that because the foreground of my mind is urging me to run screaming from the whole sullied proposition of love after watching this heartbreaking cautionary tale. Did you get a similar vibe, or am I just a uniquely dark soul?
Amy: I get that, Dark Soul. But aren’t we supposed to feel happy at the end that they’ve overcome it all? Sure they’re always going to have issues: she’s always going to wonder if her boobs are big enough for him; he will constantly have to convince her that he really is into her. But they love each other. And they’re best friends and partners in every sense of the word. That seems attainable to me. Don’t ask me with who. Let’s hope I meet him before I reach the age of thirty-seven and my life is over because my eggs are a little shriveled.
Renae: Sure we’re supposed to feel happy. But the happy ending, his grand epiphany and rapid transformation, was the only part that felt contrived (well, aside from Adam Scott saying the word “tits” over and over again). Clearly there is a tin can where my heart once was.
Amy: But the happy ending is supposed to give us hope about our own lives! Yes relationships are hard, but we’re going to do them anyway! We’re going to struggle and fight and change and hurt sometimes. AND IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUN AND WORTH IT. Or something like that. I’m getting tired.
Renae: I’ll just let this play out.
Amy: I mean, throughout the movie, there’s never a question that there is love between Jason and Julie’s characters—platonic love, romantic love, all types of love. They got it in spades. The tragedy of their relationship—the tragedy of so many relationships—is that they’re not always on the same page or in the same place, which causes them to hurt one another. Sound familiar? In rom-com world though, this is compensated for by the fact that there are more big romantic gestures and breathy speeches. Ugh, real life needs more speeches.
Renae: Well, I think this goes back to the first lesson: most people get it wrong—at least a few times—before getting it right. We partner at the wrong times or with the wrong people or for the wrong reasons, and it hurts. It’s a trial-and-error process. To find somebody who you’re not only compatible with on key levels but who also wants the same things you do and is ready to give them _at the same time_ you are is indeed a miracle. It also requires a lot of self-awareness and courage to rise above insecurities and be able to articulate honestly to yourself (and another) what you want. So, in summary, relationships are hard. Rattle rattle, tin can.
Amy: Um, yep. Can we talk about Jon Hamm instead?
Renae: Jon Hamm’s character is supremely unlikable for most of the movie until the cabin scene, when he reveals that he actually understands more (and is perhaps more heartbroken) than any other characters (is the source of his bitterness his profound sensitivity?). It’s as if Don Draper found a time-travel machine, grew out his facial hair, and discovered denim. Why do you think he’s so good at these roles?
Amy: You thought he was likable in the cabin scene? You are a dark soul. But yes, Jon Hamm is amazing at delivering truth smack-downs.
Renae: I thought that scene gave his character value and depth, and that made me like him more. His words at the cabin, though mean, were basically a summary of the whole dramatic arc of the movie. He’s the one who ultimately said, “No more” to the destructive patterns and challenged his friends to do the same. Jason eventually followed suit. He’s good at playing characters that you feel conflicted about liking. Or maybe I just like unlikable people.
Amy: Yeah he’s pretty good looking too. That helps.
Renae: Maybe I’m overthinking this, but how in the world did these two kids think that they could enter into something as intimate as raising a kid together without emotional baggage entering into the picture? He was speed-dating through her third trimester for criminy’s sake! Of course that’s going to rattle her. All I’m saying is if I were in her position, I probably would not have entered into such a precarious arrangement with this guy.
Amy: The funny thing is that she doesn’t even care that he’s dating while she’s in labor. She even remembers to ask him about how it went! So we’re definitely overthinking this and maybe projecting a little. Maybe.
Renae: Do you think it’s possible we’re overthinking this _whole entire movie_? No, that’s silly. Never mind.
Amy: Jennifer Westfeldt’s character, Julie, has one major flaw in the movie: she takes Jason’s frequent proclamations that he’s not really attracted to her (but don’t worry, he loves her for her brains yada yada yada) to heart until she actually considers herself less desirable. We women, we’re really so difficult: we want those who think we’re hot to see how intelligent and wonderful we are on the insides and those who love us for our insides to also want to have sex with us. There we go wanting it all again.
Renae: Don’t be insecure, women. And men too, don’t be insecure. Everyone—stop doing dumb things!
Amy: You need a talk show.
Amy: Poor Kurt (Ed Burns)—despite playing an absurdly caring and hunky and sensitive divorced dad, Julie just can’t get on board because she’s hung up on her BFF/baby daddy. The audience doesn’t see much of Julie and Kurt’s relationship, but don’t you think it’s fair to say Julie was probably always silently comparing him to Jason and seeking validation for all the things that Jason couldn’t provide? I mean, Kurt couldn’t even pay her a compliment when they first met without Julie self-deprecatingly replying, “No no I just have good hair and can put myself together.” Clearly this Kurt character was put through the ringer. Now can we have a sequel in which we can watch Ed Burns being caring and hunky and sensitive with a woman who has the capacity to accept it?
Renae: The heart is a mysterious fig. Ultimately, she wanted Jason and that’s what she got, so effed-up insecurities be damned. She didn’t really want to move on or be open to a new love and holding onto these insecurities helped her deflect Kurt’s affection. It makes me sad that she put herself and Kurt through this, but seems so true to life. But don’t worry; I have faith that Kurt will find a new and lasting love out there in rom-com land. Maybe with Kate Hudson or Reese Witherspoon.
Amy: I mean, this is what I got out of the movie. That and I’m now considering freezing my eggs.
Renae: I’m considering abstaining from movies. Way to go, Jennifer Westfeldt.
Amy: How messed up am I that I still really liked the movie and want to see it again? Does that make me a masochist? Perhaps I’m using it as some sort of shock therapy to prepare me should my fears come true.