I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the subject, but as a father of an eight-year-old girl who has sat through his fair share of comedies about the modern parenting experience I can tell you with some certainty that honest, realistic parenting comedies are harder to come by than a formula fed baby in Silver Lake. There just aren’t that many out there. And though I have a total soft spot for family comedies from all ends of the cinematic spectrum – be they high-minded indies like Captain Fantastic and Infinitely Polar Bear or raunchy, low-brow fare like Bad Moms and Vacation – Austrian writer-director Marie Kreutzer’s We Used to be Cool (Was hat uns bloß so ruiniert) is the first film I’ve seen in a long time that seems like it was made by and for parents that I might actually hang out with.
A wry, gritty and authentically hilarious film about the trials and tribulations of hipster parenting in the digital age, Cool taps into the urban parenting zeitgeist with like few modern films ever have and like a German-language Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Friends with Money), Kreutzer offers up a world that is so warm, lived-in, and messy that you can almost smell it.
A film festival favorite since its release late last year in Austria, Cool is the story of three impossibly hip, inner-city couples/longtime friends who become pregnant within weeks of one another and vow, as a group, to retain their hipster swagger despite the new additions to their lives. Documenting their grand experiment on film, the group’s resident documentarian Stella (Vicky Krieps) hopes to show the world that parenting and coolness are not mutually exclusive. But when the realities of raising their three very different children set in, Stella and her friends quickly find themselves facing off over everything from organic vs. prefab baby snacks to “conscious uncoupling” and attachment parenting. And though the humor gets a bit raw in spots – especially for anyone who’s ever withered in the judgmental glare of another parent’s scorn for their parenting skills – part of the fun of the film is watching the group dynamic change, almost from day to day, as Stella and her friends grow and evolve as parents.
Fiercely-independent Ines (Pia Hierzegger) realizes during childbirth that she doesn’t love her boyfriend Chris (Manuel Rubey), and kicks him to the curb, literally, forcing him to sleep on a IKEA mattress in his car. Über-controlling helicopter mom Mignon (Pheline Roggan) launches a grotesquely-overpriced kinder boutique and refuses to make her daughter wear a diaper despite the gentle prodding of her chill, coffee geek partner Luis (Andreas Kiendl). And in the end, even the seemingly-perfect Stella finds herself feeling smothered by the demands of balancing a burgeoning career as a filmmaker, motherhood, and the attentions of her sweet, yet painfully overly-accommodating, partner Markus (Marcel Mohab).
And though Cool wanders into straight-up melodrama territory here and there (especially in the second act), the film’s sly, breezy humor and killer cast keep things humming along very nicely and even if you don’t know a Bugaboo from a BabyBjörn you’ll surely find much to enjoy in this big, warm-hearted comedy.
We Used to Be Cool is now playing on select Air China, ANA, China Southern Airlines, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines flights worldwide.