Movie Review: She’s Having a Baby (1988)
“A comedy about the labours of love”
She’s Having a Baby (1988)
Director: John Hughes
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth McGovern, Alec Baldwin
Synopsis: A young man struggles to come to terms with married life.
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Encouraged by the praise he received for Planes, Trains & Automobiles, John Hughes continued to distance himself from the teen movies that had brought him such success with the release of She’s Having a Baby, an uneven comedy drama which charts the uncertain progress through married life of a young couple played by Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern. The title is something of a con, and designed, presumably, to cash in on the fad for baby movies that plagued the late 1980s. Even lacking an exclamation mark, She’s Having a Baby sounds like the title of a breezy comedy littered with montage sequences demonstrating the many humorous mishaps that befall new parents and their little charges, but what Hughes presents us with is a shapeless meditation on the trading in of unbridled youthful ambition for a more parochial life-view as we trudge ever deeper into adulthood. Pregnancy occurs around the 90 minute mark, with baby making an appearance in minute 105.
Aspiring writer Jake Briggs (Bacon – JFK, The Darkness) is still at college when he marries his girlfriend, Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern – Johnny Handsome, Kick-Ass), despite the undisguised disgust of her overbearing father (William Windom – The Gypsy Moths, Miracle on 34th Street). His best friend, Davis (Alec Baldwin – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Concussion), takes a fatalistic view of his friend’s decision to wed. ‘You were married the minute you met her,’ he observes as Jake has the inevitable last-minute jitters, before going on to assure him that, ‘You’ll be happy, you just won’t know it.’ It’s a terrific line, and it’s a shame Jake doesn’t take heed, because if he had, he would have spared himself – and us – a further 100 minutes of terminally dull navel gazing before reaching the same conclusion at movie’s end.
Not that he ever seems happy, mind you. Neither does Kristy, for that matter. As time passes, and Jake finds works as an advertising copywriter, they move from a tiny apartment to a pleasant house in the suburbs. Jake fears the slow erosion of his ambitions as he observes his neighbours bickering over the comparative merits of rival lawnmowers and their spouses immerse themselves in the minutiae of the suburban housewife. The prospect of fatherhood – which is a lot nearer than Jake realises – seems to offer nothing but even larger shackles with which to weigh him down. The problem is, Hughes never holds up any other kind of life as a preferable alternative, with Davis’s comparatively hedonistic single lifestyle appearing to be equally unappealing.
There’s an unmistakably autobiographical feel to She’s Having a Baby – Hughes, like Jake, married young and dropped out of college before finding work in advertising – and the danger of drawing on one’s own life experiences when writing a movie is that what appears fascinating to the author is something of a bore to the rest of us. Perhaps suspecting this on some level, Hughes attempts to liven things up with a number of fantasy sequences, most of which fail horribly. One can imagine he might also have had some explaining to do to his wife, considering the largely unflattering perspective we’re given of Kristy, which isn’t helped by the fact that McGovern is surely one of the coldest actresses ever to grace a screen.
Of the films Hughes directed, She’s Having a Baby is by far the weakest, and is redeemed only by a handful of sharp observations, and a typically engaging performance from Kevin Bacon.
(Reviewed 23rd October 2016)