Jacqui Gal

Adventures of a Vegemite Knish Princess

Baby Mama, no NYC drama

29 April 2008

Imagine for a moment that it was your job to choose which film would open the 7th annual Tribeca Film Festival. What would you choose: A gritty, edgy drama that personified urban living in the Greatest City In The World? Or perhaps a brilliant foreign film, filled with complicated characters and nuance, but one that deftly reaches the very core of the human condition? Or would you choose, essentially, a chick flick?

When the lights dimmed, and the opening image of Baby Mama flashed across the opening-night screen—with sweeping views of the East River and several Brooklyn-Manhattan bridges—I thought, “Ah, I get it.” This film was going to be a portrait of the city. Perhaps it was going to be one of those perennial New York Stories.

It wasn’t. Granted Tina Fey is a bit of a New York icon right now (she lives here; she’s the head writer for Saturday Night Live ; and she writes, executive-produces and stars in a show about a show made in Rockefeller Center). And—in an even greater stretch—I’ll allow that there are a great number of females living in New York who put their careers as priority number one, moving up a corporate ladder at the expense of cashing in on prime baby-making years.

But can this possibly justify Baby Mama’s selection as the festival’s numero uno prime attraction?

Personally, I found the film to be very funny. As a 31-year-old woman, working on said career and yet to test out the trusty fallopians, for me it was one of those “it’s-funny-coz-it’s-kinda-true” experiences.

When a doctor tells Fey’s character, Kate Holbrook, “I just don’t like your uterus,” because, apparently, it’s T-shaped. I had to wonder, is it possible that I too have a T-shaped uterus?

And when Amy Poehler’s character, Angie, explains the origins of her common-law marriage—“He never actually asked me to be his wife. But, he never told me not to be his wife, so things are going pretty well”—I thought about stealing that pearler to explain my own dis-nuptial situation.

But what about the guys?

For a broad swath of this city’s population, the mere mention of words like “baby”, “uterus” or “biological clock”, is enough to send them packing (and not as in “packing the aisles to see this movie”). It hardly seems fair.

Therefore, in writing about it, I feel compelled to use certain qualifiers. For example, “It might be a chick flick, but there are some great performances by supporting actors,” such as Romany Malco (the guy from Weeds), Steve Martin and Sigourney Weaver.

Martin plays Kate’s way-too-new-age boss, who once offers to reward her on a job well done with “five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact.” Meanwhile, Weaver graces the screen as irrepressibly fertile director of a surrogacy agency, who drives Kate so insane with jealousy that she once seethes, “How can you be pregnant? Your eggs are from the ‘40s!”

Poehler captures the white-trash-lady-with-a-heart-of-gold character to perfection, and gives one of the strongest performances of the cast. Fey is predictably good, and not altogether different from her 30 Rock character Liz Lemon.

Overall, there are plenty of belly laughs to be had. But this only brings me back to my original question: Is this what Tribeca should be about?

When the Tribeca Film Festival was first conceived—by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff—to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the 9/11 attacks, nobody wanted more drama. Comedies were highly appropriate. But we are not there anymore.

In 2006, organizers opened with United 93, signifying a readiness to deal with what is emotionally fraught. Then came the premiere of Spider-Man 3. Now, in 2008, with weighty issues facing this country and slew of pictures to choose from, they seem to be pulling in a different direction. And not in a good way.

An abbreviated version of this blog first appeared on Metromix.com

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