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FilmNation Entertainment, 2024


Pamela Adlon / Ilana Glazer and Josh Rabinowitz

Reading Time:

5 minutes

BabesMake It Last
00:00 / 05:57

📷 : Pixabay



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Chris Chaisson


I watched a decent amount of 60 Minutes growing up, and one particular segment sticks out in my mind. Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives fame was being interviewed by Lesley Stahl, who asked her, “You have two little girls…Is this the best experience of your life, being a mommy?” It seemed like a tee ball question to gush about her family and motherhood in general, but Huffman instead responded, “No, no, and I resent that question. Because I think it puts women in an untenable position. Because unless I say to you, ‘Oh Lesley, it's the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,’ I’m considered a bad mother.” She then admitted to not knowing whether or not she is a good mother. Her answer acknowledges an ambiguity that many parents likely feel but are discouraged from verbalizing. 

As much of a blessing as parenthood can be, raising children is challenging and even overwhelming at times. Yet we often expect parents to be absolute in their gratitude for having kids or never ponder how their life would’ve been different without them. Most comedies surrounding family focus on the relationships fostered between family members or in competition with a neighboring family. Television shows like The Brady Bunch or Leave it to Beaver give the impression that every day ends with resolution and happiness. While this is fine, it is refreshing to have entertainment that recognizes that being a parent is not always the happiest experience. Pamela Adlon’s (Better Things) new indie comedy Babes illustrates these ups and downs of parenting and the occasional doubt that creeps in. 

Babes revolves around the friendship of Eden (Ilana Glazer, Broad City) and Dawn (Michelle Buteau, Happiest Season), two lifelong pals whoare inseparable despite the fact that Dawn is married with children. Their bond is tested, however, when Dawn has her second child and Eden becomes pregnant after a one-night stand. Both feel at times overwhelmed by not only their bodies changing but the amount of responsibility that has come with their new roles. 

Eden enjoys her single and unattached existence. Her apartment is a reflection of her playful, childlike personality, as she has a soda machine and other décor that would likely appeal to an adolescent. It also doubles as classes for her yoga studio that she runs classes out of. When she decides to keep her child, she does not fully know the path ahead but intends to rely heavily on Dawn’s support and guidance. 

Dawn suddenly feels stretched very thin in terms of her time and energy. Her older child, a toddler still in diapers,behaves like an infant and demands a lot of attention. At the same time, Dawn feels pressured to provide emotional support to Eden. Eden’s co-dependency slowly but surely erodes Dawn’s patience, as Eden refuses to adjust her expectations to give Dawn a break. In a sense, Dawn has three childlike figures dependent on her, even with an active and supportive husband (Hasan Minhaj).

The most endearing aspect of Babes is that it acknowledges the hardships of childbirth and parenting rather than portraying them as an entirely positive experience. Often, the depictions of pregnancy in movies and television are overly wholesome and unrealistic. Instead, Eden experiences a full range of emotions and bodily functions that range from benign to completely gross. In the movie’s opening sequence, Dawn is at the end of her pregnancy and hilariously carries on hanging out with Eden as if her water has not clearly broken. Their actions are exaggerated for comedic effect. But Dawn and Eden still effectively convey how their bodies are changing in ways that feel more authentic than in other works.

Another noteworthy detail of the film is the absence of a malicious father figure. Dawn’s husband is a loving and committed parent, and Eden makes the deliberate choice to raise the baby herself. While Eden’s relationship with her own father was no picnic, her father expresses support and admiration for her. Eden’s doctor (and his revolving collection of hairpieces) offers his guidance and patience during every one of her visits. This addition of supportive male characters in the movie keeps the focus on the ups and downs of the platonic relationship between the film’s co-leads. It also allows for shedding light on the challenging experiences of pregnancy and parenting, even with the encouragement and assistance of others. 

The closest comparison to Babes is the 2008 comedy Baby Mama, about a businesswoman who hires a surrogate mother. Starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler,  the movie, just as in Babes, foregrounds the platonic relationship between two adult women, while the romantic relationships take a backseat. Both films contain several hi-jinks caused by the pregnant characters responding to unpredictable changes to their bodies in hilarious fashion. Babes, more than most other works, succeeds in not showing parenthood and pregnancy through rose-colored glasses. Rather, it conveys them as the up-and-down struggles of life stages that comprise parts of the person’s identity and not their whole being.

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