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Review: Manhattan Blues (Friends with Kids)

Child rearing has spawned countless numbers of get-help books, tutorial videos, counselors, and lord knows how many films. So the prospect of taking a time-old tradition and putting a modern spin on it seemed right in Jennifer Westfeldt's wheelhouse. Westfeldt has been known for making dramedies that put a fresh face on old issues: Kissing Jessica Stein took on dating and Ira & Abby took on marriage, so with Friend with Kids it seemed she was ready to reflect how society deals with children and loved ones.

Jason (Adam Scott) and Jules (Jennifer Westfeldt) have known each other since they were in college. They know everything there is to know about each other. They know each other's positions on religion, politics, favorite coffee maker, etc. They would be perfect for each other if they weren't, you know, completely unattracted to each other. But like every Manhattanite in her age range, Juls is quickly approaching an age where she may not meet Mr. Right in time to have kids. Jason, always up to help "Doll", proposes a modest situation: they have a child and each partner takes all of the responsibility half the time.

Like the audience, not all of Jason and Juls' friends are receptive to the idea. To them, it feels like a direct attack on their lifestyle. Why would they think that they, the two most flawed members of their group, would be able to raise a child without loving each other?

Just as Jason and Jules carry on their grand experiment of having children without having spouses or complicating relationships, the film turns right back around on dating and romance in Manhattan. The reliably funny Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Chris O'Down and Maya Rudolph are reduced to bitter caricatures of messed up marriages that we have seen way too often before. The films is infinitely better when it stops painting these four parents as monsters as more as actual people. The film's two leads, Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt have chemistry, but they are being forced to fit genre conventions too often to really be given room to breathe.

As innovative as Friends with Kids tries to be, before you know it, the film devolves into a series of love triangles involving unaware interlopers that completely abandons the child Jules and Joe had, except as a reminder of how much the two care for each other. At that point, Friends with Kids is less a story about having kids then just another story about a man and woman who got along, didn't, and then got back together again.

**/****

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