Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in “Friends With Kids.” (Jojo...

Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in “Friends With Kids.” (Jojo Whilden) Credit: Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in “Friends With Kids.” (Jojo Whilden)

Friends With Kids
3.5 stars
Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm
Rated R

Movies have dealt with the ups and downs of parenthood from every conceivable angle, but the bracing honesty of "Friends With Kids" sets it apart.

Writer-director-star Jennifer Westfeldt's ensemble dramedy offers a smart, funny and decidedly modern take on the ways a group of thirty-something friends are fundamentally changed, for better and worse, by their decisions to have children.

The New York-set flick stars Westfeldt and Adam Scott ("Parks and Recreation") as longtime best pals Julie and Jason, who watch in horror as their friends' lives and once-passionate relationships are consumed by the struggles of parenting.

The protagonists are conflicted, however, as they love kids and would like to have some of their own. Walking back to their Manhattan apartment building after a particularly eventful evening, an unconventional idea is hatched: They'll have a child together and keep dating other people - skipping the whole messy relationship thing.

That sounds like the start of a gimmicky sitcom, but Westfeldt's observant writing keeps things grounded, and the strong performances (the cast also includes Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Westfeldt's real-life boyfriend Jon Hamm) root the movie in truthful emotions.

"Friends With Kids" evokes the angst of the life-altering experience of raising children, but more than anything, it's about the joy and love that can sprout from it.

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