Friday, March 09, 2012

Jen & Jen

"Everybody's named Barbara," George Segal comments in Robert Altman's "California Split" (1974), in which Altman playfully named serveral female characters Barbara - you know, just like in real life.

Well to paraphrase, everybody's named ... Jennifer. At least in movies. There's Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Grey, Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Beals, Jennifer Coolidge, Jennifer Ehle, Jennifer Finnegan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jennifer Tilly and the greatest Jennifer of all - Aniston.

And then there's Jennifer Westfeldt.

Thanks to vagaries of movie release schedules, both Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Westfeldt have two new movies in release. Both are comedies. Both are very good comedies. And both are quite observant.

In David Wain's genuinely hilarious "Wanderlust," Aniston is paired breezily with Paul Rudd as a New York career couple who, victimized by the economic downturn and strapped for cash, hit the road, ending up in a commune that seems to have wandered in from a '60s film.

At last, a hands-down funny comedy, and one without the huffing, puffing shock value of "The Hangover" and "Bridesmaids." Not that "Wanderlust" is prim, but much of what's wonderful about it are its alert one-liners, nifty visual gags, the chemistry of its cast, the sublime comic timing of Aniston and the irreplaceable Rudd's Lemmon-esque turn.

Aniston has very good taste in leading men - Rudd (here and in "The Object of My Affection" and on TV's "Friends"), Jason Bateman ("The Switch"), Steve Zahn ("Management"), Vince Vaughn ("The Break Up"), Aaron Eckhart ("Love Happens"), Ron Livingston ("Office Space"), Owen Wilson ("Marley and Me"), Clive Owen ("Derailed"), Mark Wahlberg ("Rock Star"), Jake Gyllenhaal ("The Good Girl"), Mark Ruffalo and Kevin Costner ("Rumor Has It") and Ben Affleck ("He's Just Not That Into You").

Westfeldt's "Friends with Children," meanwhile - which the hyphenate performer wrote, directed and stars in - in a most companionable romcom about two BFFs (Adam Scott and Westfeldt) who decide to have a baby but without the complications messing up the lives of their couple-ly friends (Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm, and Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd).

Each one plans to live separately from the other - she in a relationship with Ed Burns, he with Megan Fox. But life, as they say, gets in the way.

Westfeldt and Scott end up with a bigger mess than their friends in this relationship comedy that's more solid and more vulnerable than most.


jbryant said...

Sounds good. I hope FRIENDS WITH KIDS' finds its audience. WANDERLUST has flopped, for some reason.

joe baltake said...

Jay- "Wanderlust" received largely indifferent reviews, although Manhola Dargis of The New York Times, Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Glenn Kinney, to name a few of the more astute critics, liked it.

Alex said...

David Denby of The New Yorker also liked "Wanderlust."

Patty said...

I liked both films a lot. Very competent comedies, each coming from a different area, and both are intelligent and observant in their own way. But reactions are always in extreme these days. Critics either rave or pan, with no in-between. And moviegoers tend to call films either "the best" they've ever seen or "the worst." Ugh!