Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Filmmaking About Babymaking: Then She Found Me & Baby Mama

That biological clock just

keeps on ticking. The good news -- for those of us who watch the preponderance of films at home on disc -- is that two recent movies about women who want babies (but can't seem to get pregnant) are now available. Helen Hunt's very impressive first film Then She Found Me made its video debut last week, and this week sees the DVDebut of writer/director Matthew McCullers' Baby Mama.

As up to the minute as these movies may seem to the younger set, I do recall seeing another up-to-the-minute movie about the same subject back in 1970: The Baby Maker, a film that gave Barbara Hershey one of her earlier and better roles. Since nearly 40 years have come and gone between that film and the two under consideration now, one must conclude that "new" ideas such as surrogate mothers and/or any alternate manner of conception (including adoption and gay/lesbian parenting is still way too far out of the mainstream to take hold and stay put.

Ms Hunt's movie -- and I think it safe to call this her movie, as she directed, co-adapted (from Elinor Lipman's novel), co-produced and takes the leading role -- is a lovely piece of work. It includes quite a few major characters, all of whom register strongly due to their being cast with a fine ensemble: Bette Midler, Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick, John Benjamin Hickey, Lynn Cohen and Ben Shenkman among them (It's particularly great to see Midler in such fine form). Hunt handles each scene surprisngly well for a novice, bringing out the necessary content without hammering it home. She draw lovely performances from all; whether she simply let each actor do his/her thing or coached it out of them, who knows? Who cares? Her film covers parenting (birth and otherwise), loss, and those tentative steps toward something new with insight and a combination of warmth, irony and wit.

Baby Mama
adheres fimrly to the rom-com format, even though it is even more involved with the "How the hell do I get pregnant?" scenario. McCullers has cast his movie impeccably, from his SNL leads (Tina Fey and Amy Pohler) to Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Romany Malco, Signourney Weaver, Steve Martin, Maura Tierney, Holland Taylor, Denis O'Hare and James Rebhorn. Each gives every line of dialog its due, even if some lines are better than others. For awhile, mid-section, the movie looks like it might get lost but then bounces back nicely, rounding the bases -- comedic, romantic, sentimental -- with speed and enough style to carry you along happily. And the babies are all adorable.

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