This review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from Rhetologue’s Movie Logs. Thank you for being a part of this blogathon! Let’s see what he thought of She’s Having A Baby. 🙂
Love and marriage. It goes together like a horse and carriage but also has Kevin Bacon freaking out in John Hughes much maligned surrealist romantic comedy.
EHarmony. Match.com. OKCupid. What do they all have in common? Well, they’re all websites that have millions scrambling to find ‘the one’. Yet what is it about the actual settling down, past the overly extravagant dates, butterflies and passion filled coitus that has some men freaking out? This is what the late John Hughes explores in his 1988 dramatic comedy She’s Having a Baby. First of all, how hilarious is it that the title completely puts the ball in her court? Even before you get into the story you are completely aware of what starving artist Jake Briggs (Kevin Bacon) thinks about the baby growing inside wife Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern).
She’s Having a Baby charts the early years of their relationship and is truly told from the perspective of Jake as he contends with settling down, building a home and becoming a father. As much as (some) men like women, Hughes presents the young men in his movie as seeing them as crazy people. Hughes paints Jake’s love interest as a wide eyed, irrational, succubus out to ensnare the innocent young Jake and drain him of his independence and virility. To this degree ‘She’ is nearly inconsequential, yet is Jake’s only real antagonist, as Hughes seems to believe that the target audience (i.e. other men) will understand the basis of his conceit completely. The seed of such a perspective of trepidation is planted by a young and mullet-rocking Alec Baldwin as mirror Davis, a dim witted Lothario still looking for love yet happy to defy its conventions. Baldwin has been playing this character for years and it never gets old, recently making good of the ageing lothario character in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
The conflicting perspectives are handled with biting candour in Hughes’ monologues as bile flies from all involved, including Jake’s in-laws eager for him to stop playing artist, get a real job and pump out some grandkids. Kevin Bacon’s big innocent eyes and anxiously fatalistic monologues are the anchors to this passive tale as he wanders through his own life, a supposed victim of an inevitability. Yet Hughes marries Jake’s latent misogyny with his devotion, volatile self-esteem, emotional flexibility and belief in love. This was a very mature role for the Footloose star, yet is testimony to a great career of never being typecast. Few actors can say that they have had such a diverse career and that the range has been of such a high standard. Here Bacon delivers the quiet anxiety that is foundation to his concerns.
As he looks out from behind Hughes’ iconic frames, character and inspiration collide and we are given insight into the writer’s thoughts and convictions with comedic exaggeration. Hughes does a great job of taking theatrical motifs such as moving sets and clashing alternate realities to visually represent Jake’s anguish. We are used to seeing such an approach in movies and sitcoms like Scrubs but here they are delivered with the rough and poor execution of burgeoning innovation. The same can be said for the story, which barrels together as a mess of great ideas, falling over one another without particular form or grace yet bursting with ingenuity. These motifs assist Hughes in conjuring a dream-like quality to She’s Having a Baby, with situations and conversations culminating in Jake’s worldview or providing him suspended time to make moralistic decisions. This surrealist tone has our hero almost unable to believe anything in his life is really happening. For a film to solely generate the mind-set of its protagonist in this way is quite an achievement and has this movie hold a particular novelty.
As Jake flirts with infidelity and finds solace only when the proverbial crapola nearly hits the fan, this is far from a romantic tale…and that’s awesome. In a world of overly saccharine Rom-coms, leading to predictable conclusions with people characterised as overly successful or simplistic failures, it’s nice to watch a story that surrounds people with some rough edges. Sure, those rough edges are of a successful lawyer and a guy walking ass backwards into a job in advertising but it’s as close to the everyman as you can get. This was always Hughes’ gift (or famed indulgence), to paint what can subjectively be called real people, with writers/directors like Judd Apatow firmly living within his legacy.
“We need the eggs”
It’s not a line from Hughes’ much ignored movie but my Last Words are from the end of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. “We need the eggs” has always seemed to encapsulate the attempt of such narratives that seek to make sense of the relationship between men and women. Hughes’ movie is a charming mess of ideas, concepts, opinions and realities that culminate without any real conclusions…well, except that it would be better if the woman Jake loves didn’t die. That commentary in of itself just made me laugh as I wrote it and that is the fun thing about this movie, it works under an awkward and unashamedly male bias.
Therefore, there are many reasons why She’s Having a Baby wouldn’t be in a John Hughes box set, joining the likes of The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science. Sure, it has Hughes’ cutesy hallmarks, with fun contrived montages and anxious monologues, but at its core is a hell of a lot more bite and fatalism. This presents a stoic world view, even beating out the likes of The Breakfast Club in its attempts to contend with coming of age as a baptismal story of underlying sobriety. It’s not as melodramatic as Hughes’ other stories, there’s no overt emotions or morals, as at its core is a darkly comic conceit.
Though all those other John Hughes movies are miles better in construction and delivery, She’s Having a Baby is one of his often ignored tales that provides sparks of novel creativity, a rarely presented true-ish male perspective and the cahones to be honest about a man’s fear of what it feels like when a woman is having a baby.