She’s Having a Baby (1988)

14 Jul

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“She’s Having a Baby” is a different look for John Hughes—insight into the adult life of relationships and conflict, rather than the high school teenagers’ side of such (see “The Breakfast Club” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” among others). And while the results are somewhat uneven in tone, it’s still a funny and insightful (sometimes both at the same time) film about marriage and commitment. Maybe it tries to be a little too broad to ease up on certain heavier issues by giving us one too many comedic gimmicks, but a few of them did make me laugh, which means they did work. As a result, I find myself liking and recommending “She’s Having a Baby.”

The story for “She’s Having a Baby” begins on the wedding day of a young couple, Jake and Kristy (Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern). Jake, who narrates the story, is very nervous about what he’s about to do, as we see in a daydream sequence that exaggerates what the marrying preacher asks him to do for his wife-to-be before ultimately saying “I will.” This is one of many flights of fancy in this movie that represent certain “ordinary” aspects in these characters’ lives. Daydream fantasy sequences, nightmares, imaginary conversations, and even a musical number involving the neighbors of the suburban neighborhood in which the now-married couple moves.

These moments can sometimes seem distracting, and I’ll admit I was mouthing the words “what the hell” during the musical number. They make the tone of this film inconsistent; whether or not “She’s Having a Baby” is intended to be a comedy, a drama, or a comedy-drama is not necessarily clear. Then again, Hughes has been known for having his share of cheesy moments in his teen films, so maybe it’s the change of pace for the “adult-world” that threw me off a bit. (And for the record, at least Hughes’ film before this, “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” starring Steve Martin and John Candy, was intended to be a comedy.)

Anyway, back to the story. Actually, I should switch that term “story,” because essentially, there isn’t much of one. It’s just mainly about this couple as they take up responsibilities of adulthood, even though Jake isn’t entirely willing to. He’s not ready for the responsibility of supporting his wife, becoming a working-class man, and eventually the idea of starting a family. But he knows it’s too late to do anything else, so he reluctantly accepts it. Years pass, as Jake has conned his way into a job at an advertising agency (though he spends nights writing a novel because his work doesn’t interest him), the marriage is going fine even though he and Kristy argue at times and Jake sometimes imagines sexual fantasies, and compared to his best friend’s (Alec Baldwin) adventurous life in New York, he finds his so-called “yuppie” life to be less than satisfying.

And then comes the issue of Kristy wanting to conceive a child and Jake not knowing whether or not he’s ready to be a father. He does give in, ultimately, as Kristy is pregnant. Although, instead of going through the usual ways of pregnancy (because Kristy is never the narrator with her own focus), we instead get a montage that speeds through some of what they go through. If that’s not effective enough, then the last 20 minutes of the movie, involving the baby-making, certainly makes up for it. This is where the risks come with the heavy drama. And strangely enough, this sequence works. Without giving anything away here, it made me feel for Jake, who finally realizes his priorities and finds himself fully ready to be an adult. It’s a well-done final act.

There are some very funny bits in “She’s Having a Baby.” For example, I love Jake’s reaction when Kristy tells him that she’s been off the pill for weeks. There’s also a nicely-written comic scene in which Jake sits with the neighborhood men who go on and on about their lawnmowers, which is intersected with a conversation with Kristy and a couple neighborhood women who go on about other meaningless suburban stuff. There are also some good, funny one-liners, and a few other comedic scenes that I will not reveal in this review in an attempt to make it funnier. Just say you won’t be thinking of the song “Chain Gang” the same way anymore.

Oh, and also the in-laws (William Windom & Cathryn Damon and James Ray & Holland Taylor) are pretty funny as well. They have some very nice, comedic moments.

There are, however, a few scenes that feel uncomfortable. One in particular comes in the middle, as Jake is at a photo-shoot for the ad agency he works with, and he has to pose with a baby whose mother doesn’t seem to be around. As he searches for the baby’s mother, he comes to the woman’s dressing room and becomes infatuated with the women putting on their stockings and underwear and such. As if the sensual temptations of a strange, attractive woman Jake meets at a disco (actually, he meets her in the john—funny), they had to throw this in. I guess it’s to add to Jake’s sudden need for excitement in his sex life, but this is pushing it. (The baby’s awkward reaction shots added to the intense editing of this scene don’t help either.)

“She’s Having a Baby” can be seen as a movie in which Hughes’ young characters have grown up and now have to face reality. In that case, I find the movie to be more interesting and effective in how this couple is developed. Within the fantasy and satire, there is a sense of realism in how these situations are represented and they seem quite believable in principle. “She’s Having a Baby” is funny and serious at the same time, and while it may seem like an uneven production, I liked it enough to care for it.

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