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Review: Babes (2024)

Babes (2024)

Directed by: Pamela Adlon 

Premise: A single woman (Ilana Glazer) unexpectedly becomes pregnant. She faces the reality of becoming a mother while her best friend (Michele Buteau) copes with life as a two-time parent.

What Works: Babes is less about pregnancy and more about the friendship between Ilana Glazer and Michele Buteau’s characters. They are believable as lifelong friends, the type who see each other everyday and have no boundaries, and Glazer and Buteau are very funny. Babes is an admirable mix of comedy and drama, using one to enhance the other and the filmmakers find the humor in serious and substantive real-life issues. The story begins with Buteau’s character giving birth to her second child and the chaos and exhaustion of parenthood takes its toll not only on the parents but on the relationship between these female friends. Glazer’s character has no point of reference and is somewhat conceited and doesn’t get that things have changed, causing conflict in their friendship that eventually comes to a head. Babes deals with the complexity of adult friendships and how parenthood changes these relationships. Because the friendship is so strong and so likable, the filmmakers get the viewer to want to see these friends sort it out. Babes also deals with loss. Glazer becomes pregnant after a fling with a lover who unexpectedly died. This is handled extremely well. The death is sad but it is addressed tastefully without bringing the movie down. Ilana Glazer and Stephan James have strong chemistry and we get the sense that this relationship might have gone somewhere; it adds some dramatic weight to the story and to the decision to keep the pregnancy.

What Doesn’t: There is a whole genre of pregnancy comedies that includes Knocked Up, Juno, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and Obvious Child. These films typically center on immature characters who are unprepared to be a parent and encounter the challenges and indignities of pregnancy. Anyone who has seen a pregnancy comedy will recognize many scenarios in Babes. It adheres very closely to convention and does not add much to the genre. Glazer and Buteau’s characters are rendered with complexity and nuance but the men of the film don’t get the same depth of characterization. Most of the men are idealized. Hasan Minhaj plays the spouse of Michele Buteau’s character and he does everything right. Even the estranged and neurotic father played by Oliver Platt is mostly reasonable. The filmmakers miss opportunities to do more with the male characters.

Bottom Line: Babes is familiar storytelling but the characters are so likable and the movie is so funny that it easily ranks alongside the better pregnancy comedies. The filmmakers find the humor in difficult and occasionally sad subject matter and the cast is game for both the comedy and the drama.

Episode: #999 (June 9, 2024)