Between Vanity Fair, The WashPo, and NPR, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about the new film Friends with Kids, which is written, directed by, and starring Jennifer Westfeldt. Immediately I was intrigued by Westfeldt’s track record of writing and acting in under-the-radar films that offer an unusual perspective on life’s milestones. Also, the fact that she’s Jon Hamm’s significant other and managed to nab the stars of Bridesmaids for the movie was equally intriguing.
In every interview with Westfeldt, her breakout role in 2001’s Kissing Jessica Stein was mentioned. The name and even the movie poster were familiar, and as soon as I read the teaser, I realized why I hadn’t watched it: It’s about a straight single girl who after one too many blows on the battlefield of love, decides to try dating a woman. And when you’re in high school, movies like that are a banned goods — also, I’m pretty sure I had little to no interest in it at the time.
Watching it 11 years after its release, I am amazed that such a film was so well-received and appreciated back then. It seems that the past decade has brought about a much more open dialogue about sexual preferences in public life and certainly in entertainment. Credit where credit is due: This film rides the Sex and the City wave — which was running concurrently — of the misadventures of the single gal in the big city while placing a neurotic Woody Allen-eque female protagonist, who is both tightly wound yet vulnerable. The result is hilarious at times but always maintains a kernel of truth: There is no right or wrong way to live your tumultuous 20s and 30s, and when it comes to love all is fair — or in this case, fair game.
While I don’t see myself ever falling into Jessica Stein’s unique predicament, the character is so well-written and delivered by Westfeldt, that I find myself relating to her far more than heroines in your garden-variety rom-coms. And while her follow-ups of Ira & Abby and Friends with Kids might not have garned as much critical acclaim, I am looking forward to watching them both in the hopes of glimpsing another nugget of Westfeldt’s wisdom that is often overlooked but no less apparent.