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Review: October Baby (2012)

October Baby (2012)

Directed by: Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin

Premise: A female college student (Rachel Hendrix) discovers that she is the adopted survivor of a botched abortion and sets out on a road trip to find her birth mother.

What Works: October Baby is aimed at a very specific audience. This movie is the latest picture from Provident Films, the production company behind faith based shows such as Courageous and Fireproof. October Baby has been conceived and created for an audience with specific religious, political, and ideological perspectives and this film will probably appeal to that audience. To its credit, October Baby has an impressive performance by Rachel Hendrix in the lead role and she is convincing in many scenes, even when the film’s awkward dialogue and obtuse filmmaking techniques collude to derail the actress. But the most interesting quality about October Baby is the way it subverts the road trip narrative. This kind of story, which has been seen in films as wide-ranging as National Lampoon’s Vacation, Little Miss Sunshine, and Into the Wild, operates under the assumption that a life changing epiphany is to be found on the horizon. October Baby questions that assumption (perhaps inadvertently) and that allows the film an ending that is more interesting than it would be otherwise.

What Doesn’t: October Baby has a number of cinematic and narrative shortcomings. The film’s most notable failures are in its story. A lot of time is spent early on in the picture introducing characters and setting up subplots but nearly all of these elements are dropped or severely underdeveloped and the film as a whole has a padded quality to it. There are a lot of narrative tangents as the protagonist encounters other characters who only participate in a single scene these moments do not contribute to the climax that the film is working its way toward. Although the filmmakers of October Baby attempt to undermine the conceit of the road trip narrative, the way in which they do that is equally, if not more, problematic. Stories are, by definition, a series of related events and audiences derive meaning from the juxtaposition of plot points, arriving at a conclusion that is greater than the sum of its parts. What October Baby asks the audience to do is start on a journey with the protagonist but in the end discover that the whole expedition was for naught. That is a very dissatisfying ending and the way October Baby concludes is a narrative copout. October Baby is also hurt by it lack of credibility. The main character’s attempt to find her birth mother is in part a detective story but she discovers too many things too easily. There are a lot of coincidences in this film or moments that are just unbelievable such as multiple scenes in which the main character is in trouble with the law but is let go after she tells authorities her backstory. Aside from all these narrative problems, October Baby is extraordinarily ham-handed and sentimental. The dialogue is often awkward and laughable, even in the serious scenes, and the filmmakers keep blatantly trying to create tear jerker moments out of nothing. The film does not build up to emotional climaxes so much as it uses every cinematic tool available to hammer a response out of the viewer and it comes across as calculating and even crass. Lastly, October Baby addresses the abortion debate but it does not have anything interesting to say about the topic or related issues like religion, identity, or the value of human life. The film is not challenging or revelatory either for general viewers or for the specific audience for which it was intended. Instead, the picture panders to its base with schmaltz and that ought to be vaguely insulting no matter how the viewer feels about the abortion issue.

Bottom Line: October Baby is probably going to appeal to its intended audience. It is not going to challenge anyone’s ideas about abortion or human life and isn’t a particularly good story.

Episode: #386 (April 29, 2012)