Two women facing each other and talking.

Film Review: Babes


Director: Pamela Adlon
FilmNation Entertainment, Range Media Partners and Starrpix
In Theaters: 05.24

The summer movie season is traditionally a time of big sequels, big explosions, big stars, big stunts, big merchandising opportunities and of course, big CGI creatures. We’re not even quite there yet, and the need for something small is already here. While Babes does feature plenty of its own type of explosions, it’s still a nice change of pace from most of what’s out there.

Eden (Ilana Glazer, Broad City, Rough Night) and Dawn (Michelle Buteau, Clerks III) have been best friends since childhood and are still nearly inseparable, despite Eden being a free-spirited singleton who refuses to be tied down by obligations, while Dawn is happily married and popping out her second child. After being present at the miraculous—if graphic—birth of Dawn’s baby, Eden meets a suave yet down-to-earth man named Claude (Stephan James, If Beale Street Could Talk, 21 Bridges) on the subway ride home. One thing leads to another and soon Eden finds herself pregnant and unable to track down Claude. Surprising everyone with her decision to keep the baby, Eden leans on Dawn to be her partner, coach and lifeline. Ever the supportive bestie, Dawn tries to juggle her own struggles, which include an inability to produce enough milk, her son Tommy (Caleb Mermelstein-Knox) regressing into baby behaviors to get attention and a looming return to work after maternity leave, while still being there for Eden. Eden’s demanding personality and Dawn’s high exhaustion make for an uneasy mix, and the lifelong bond between them is tested as both are forced to examine what it really means to be an adult.

Babes is frequently funny and consistently charming, with richly drawn characters and situational comedy that, while heightened for effect, is often amusingly relatable. It’s also a comedy that is reveling in its R rating, and while the in-your-face raunchiness works much of the time, it gets tedious at others. While much of it is pointedly, and even smartly, used to explore aspects of modern womanhood, sexual politics and the more unpleasant aspects of pregnancy, the shock value laugh factor does inevitably wear out its welcome, particularly when focusing on scatological humor. Thankfully, there’s more to Babes than just the “Yeah, we went there” factor, and there’s some great character-based comedy. Eden’s obsessive need to defy conventions and have an “event” birth, complete with a prom theme, is hilarious, and a subplot involving her letting Tommy watch The Omen leads to some great moments. Most of all, Babes is a movie that thrives on wonderfully developed character relationships that are easy to become wholeheartedly invested in, and audience members are likely to feel as determined to stick together and see this through to the end as Eden and Dawn. 

Glazer is spunky, obnoxious and thoroughly endearing as Eden, making her a perfect blend of impossible-not-to-love and just plain impossible. Buteau is a fresh presence who makes a big impression, beautifully portraying the anxieties and highly mixed emotions of a woman who is overwhelmed with being a mother to her children, both determined to be one to her friend while resenting the need to be one at the same time. Hasan Minhaj (Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, No Hard Feelings) adds a lot to the proceedings as Marty, Dawn’s endlessly patient and supportive husband, and James is appealing enough to make Claude’s presence effectively hang in the air throughout the film, which is crucial to the story. John Carrol Lynch (The Founder) gets some of the biggest laughs as Dr. Morris, Eden’s OB/GYN, and it’s great to see Oliver Platt (The Three Musketeers, Frost/Nixon) show up as Eden’s father, Bernie.

 Babes is hardly a movie for everyone, though it’s likely to do very well with its target female audience and can be readily enjoyed by men as well. It’s the kind of comedy that is heavily dependent on the talent and charisma of its lead actors, which is no problem when you have stars who are as up to the task as Glazer and Buteau. If you’re looking for laughs, heart and a bit of a feminist sensibility, Babes offers a very smooth delivery. –Patrick Gibbs

Read more comedy film reviews here:
Sundance Film Review: Theater Camp
Film Review: The Garfield Movie