Friends With Kids. And Problems.

Everybody has friends with kids. Everybody knows that having kids is complicated. But not everybody is brave enough to make a movie about it.

Writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt is. In her film Friends with Kids, she explores the increasingly common predicament of the late-thirties, unmarried, and aspirational woman who wants to have a child, but doesn't have a partner. (Hence the big Atlantic article All the Single Ladies.) Given that millenials are the most unmarried generation in all of American history, someone needs to address the scary but important topic of how people are going to about the business of family-making, unpartnered.

Friends with Kids does, but with a tense, scared approach. Although it is witty and engaging, Friends with Kids is unsettling. The plot preface is that the utter dysfunction of four out of the six main character's is due to "their kids," but it isn't due to their kids at all - it's due to who they are. They're spoiled and emotionally underdeveloped, and while the protagonist is high-minded, her constant anxiety affects her speech and even her facial expressions, making you feel sorry for her instead of rooting for her tough decision to raise a child by herself.

This unfortunately makes what was potentially a bold movie about alternative choices a story paralyzed by the terrors of yuppie-dom. The degree of neurosis at the heart of Friends with Kids makes Woody Allen look like Cary Grant, and Sarah Jessica Parker look like...Marilyn Monroe? There are, and will be, plenty of new American families with plenty of new, modern problems. ABC has an Emmy-winning show about just that subject. But on that show, and in real life, friends with kids don't look this uncomfortable - in fact, they look pretty happy, in spite of their problems.