Monday, January 7, 2013

Capsule Film Reviews: She's Having a Baby

1988's She's Having a Baby is one of John Hughes's grown up films. Hughes had done some grown up films and television before if you count the frat boys from the Delta House, the 1979 ABC watered down remake of 1978's National Lampoon's Animal House for the small screen, those returning to their tenth reunion at Lizzie Borden High in 1982's National Lampoon's Class Reunion, the working wife and stay at home husband of Mr. Mom, a 1983 comedy drama which rode the wave of public interest in the increasing number of women in the workplace to the big screen, and the two guys trying to get to Chicago for Thanksgiving in 1987's Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, as adults. Hughes was best known in the 1980s for what Buffy Summers calls the Molly Ringwald oeuvre, 1984's Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club and 1986's Pretty in Pink, and the non-Ringwald 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, teen flicks all.

She's Having a Baby (Paramount) begins with Jefferson "Jake" Briggs (Kevin Bacon) narrating for us the events of that day in which he decided, after some hesitation, to marry Kristin "Kristi" (Elizabeth McGovern). Even after marriage Jake continues to dream about his heart's content. He wants to be a writer. Married life means deferring his dream, however. Jake soon finds himself living in the Chicago suburbs, this is Hughes territory after all, in a suburban white house, with suburban wife, suburban front yard, neighbours who rhapsodise about different types of lawn tractors and the horrors of unknown food, and with an advertising job that takes him from the suburbs into the city by suburban train every weekday. Married life is not smooth for Jake, however. He has in-law problems. He and Kristi fight. He continues to dream of writing his great American book. He continues to dream about a beautiful Italian model who fancies him.

She, for the most part, is what Jake tells us she is. She loves him. She wants that house in the suburb. She wants that bourgeois family complete with baby. So she stops taking her birth control pills. Thanks to a little bit of help from her doctors he, no longer wearing that tight underwear that is negatively impacting his sperm count, Jake finally gives Kristi what she wants, a baby. But does he want it.

A not so funny thing happens on the way to baby delivery land. Complications ensue. There is some drama left in this light comedy--I would call it a light romantic comedy drama but I didn't really find much in the way of romance in She's Having A Baby--after all. Kristi's baby is breach, a typical problem for her side of the family as we learned earlier during an earlier in-law visit. Hughes does lay down arc clues. Will it die? Will she die? Will Jake be set free to become the artist of his dreams? Well no and yes. Kristi survives and so does baby Christopher. Jake realises just how much he loves Kristi and finishes his novel, a memoir about how Kristi had a baby, the memoir he has been reading to us throughout She's Having a Baby, a memoir titled, surprise, surprise, She's Having a Baby. Happy ending. You can, or so She's Having a Baby seems to tell us, have your artistic dreams and live the suburban life too. Happy ever suburban life after.

She's Having a Baby is not a great film. It is not a horrible film. It is like most films that come out of Hollywood these days, mediocre. I didn't really care emotionally or intellectually about Jake and Krist. I found She's Having a Baby sometimes way too self consciously cutesy for my taste as when Jake imagines his neighbours doing a Busby Berkeley style choreographed dance with lawnmowers and as when various and sundry members of the Hughes wagon company and others give us their names for Baby Briggs. Nor am I sure that the now standard "hip" pop and rock soundtrack so typical of the brave new Hollywood and the films of John Hughes added much to the film. Rather it seemed more a cynical attempt to bring the young demographic into theatres and to sell more product to that same young demographic. Some commentators, by the way, have seen the film as chauvinistic if not misogynistic. I am not sure I would go that far but it is true that She's Having a Baby is told from a man's point of view and the main female character is incredibly sketchy and has little in the way of depth. But then the male narrator of the tale doesn't have much more in the way of depth either. I give She's Having a Baby two to two and a half stars. Watchable if sometimes only barely.



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