Last Sunday I decided to take it easy after a weekend of gigging and so, apart from taking my Dad out to dinner for Father’s Day, I pretty much just watched movies. I had been interested in seeing Friends with Kids as it’s written and directed by a woman and we know how few and far between those movies are. In fact Jennifer Westveldt wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film, in which two friends decide to have a child together despite the fact that they’re not in love with each other. Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westveldt) are best friends who witness their close friends’ relationships deteriorate once they have children. Jason and Julie decide the solution is to have a child together and then each concentrate on finding their “person”, i.e. love of their life. The cast is rounded out by Westveldt’s partner John Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd (who really needs to work on his American accent), Megan Fox and Ed Burns.
I thought as Friends with Kids was written and directed by a woman it would avoid the usual rom-com cliches but aside from a few expletives and references to kegel muscles, the film played out according to form. The ending was so obvious so you could see it coming a mile away (in fact you can probably guess it from the trailer which I hadn’t seen) and all along I kept thinking “No Jennifer, surprise me here, give me an ending that turns the whole movie on its head and makes it unique.” Jennifer was not listening to me. I’m not a fan of rom-coms as generally the plot is so predictable that there’s little to entertain me or make me think. Friends with Kids didn’t change my mind.
After that I decided to watch Source Code, a 2011 film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monahan. It’s billed as a science fiction techno thriller which essentially sounds like a description of my ideal movie. The film received amazing reviews and it seemed like an interesting premise: Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) is sent back in time by the military to find a bomber who wreaked havoc on a commuter train in Chicago.
The film was engaging at first and the performances of Gyllenhaal and Farmiga were great, but as it went on Source Code was unsure of the kind of film it wanted to be. It seemed as if the writer and director lobbed in as many references as possible, making for a sloppy film. Sometimes Jake uttered a line of dialogue so cheesy that it sounded like it was written for Arnold Schwarzenegger, there were elements of Inception and of Moon in the plot device, and the love interest played by Michelle Monahan was unneccessary (why does there always have to be a love interest when the film would be much better without the distraction?). Even the music was confused. At the beginning, it sounded like the soundtrack to gritty 70s thriller and I loved it. Later on as lush strings swelled to major chords I wondered if it was written by the same composer. As a friend of mine said “there was a good movie in there, they just didn’t make it.”