Talking About Friends, Kids & Production

Talking About Friends, Kids & Production

Kentucky Native Joey McFarland Helps Bring this Baby to The Screen

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) take notes as the arrival of children seems to rip the romance out of the relationships of their coupled friends, the ever-horny Ben (Jon Hamm) & Missy (Kristen Wiig) and the humorously rock-solid Leslie (Maya Rudolph) & Alex (Chris O’Dowd). The six are lively and cultured New Yorkers enjoying their version of Sex and the City, but all of them are vaguely aware, in theory, that kids will challenge their ability to dine out in style and vacation with ease. Julie and Jason, though, have even more reason to fear: they are the platonic couple, the best friends who know each other’s every foible, which leads them to consider the possibility of having a child, while sidestepping all of the pesky entanglements that sex and love can create.

As a married critic with kids, my insider’s gaze of Friends With Kids, the new project from Westfeldt, the now triple-threat independent film phenom who gave us Kissing Jessica Stein, raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I wondered, at times, which of my friends had taped one of our house parties or a raucous restaurant road show. Even though the focus is on the crazy couple that believes they can cheat the game — or remake it in their own glamorously deluded self-image — married folks will see reflections of themselves in these two, because we all say we want to marry our best friend and imagine that we will remain as hip and sexy as we were back in the day.

I felt not one ounce of shame sharing this sentiment during a phone interview with Joey McFarland, the Kentucky native (with a home in the Queen City) who, along with his Red Granite Pictures partner, Riza Aziz, helped to produce Friends With Kids.

Red Granite is the new kid on the production block, but they have already formed an alliance with Appian Way, Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company on The Wolf of Wall Street (with Leo starring), which will begin filming this summer, and their aim is to mix tent-pole projects with more intimate fare while hopefully generating a slate of three movies a year. For them, not the scope but the material comes first.

Producing approximates the give-and-take of a condensed long-term relationship or a marriage, one with an offspring that grows up equally fast and heads out into the world to seek approval. To hear McFarland talk about Westfeldt, it is like the testimony of a proud and enamored partner.

“She is the embodiment of a passionate writer, producer, director and actress. She is a force. The truth is, it is easy to like a script on the page, but you have to believe in the people to bring that vision to life on the screen. And when we sat down with Jennifer and Jon, these two soul mates who aren’t married but have been together for years and are best friends and put their own time and money behind this project, it was an awesome experience.”

For the intimately attuned audience members, there is a subtlety in Friends too, displayed through its old school approach to friendship. In a society that has tipped overwhelmingly towards social media and virtual networks versus face-to-face encounters, Westfeldt reminds us that friends used to be the people you went out of your way to spend time with, the people you saw and who saw you at your best and worst in the moment.

With local voices like McFarland out there in production houses like Red Granite, there seems to be hope for more organic partnerships not only between filmmakers, but also filmmakers and eager audiences everywhere.

Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com

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