Tuesday 19 January 2021

Express delivery: "Baby Done"

Maybe a romcom can cheer us up. Billed as "a Curtis and Sophie film" - the writer's Sophie Henderson, the director Curtis Vowell - with a prominent exec-producer credit for Taika Waititi, this week's Baby Done offers a breezy Kiwi variant on the accidental-pregnancy trope underpinning Judd Apatow's Knocked Up, to name the most prominent recent example. Rose Matafeo (runner-up, Taskmaster Series Nine) and Matthew Lewis (erstwhile Neville Longbottom) play Zoe and Tim, an unmarried but cohabiting pair of thirtysomething tree surgeons who self-identify as "a wild and crazy couple", and delight in the kind of devil-may-care activity they believe is beyond the reach of their (to their eyes, boringly) domesticated contemporaries. Choice example: as we join them, Zoe is making great strides through the field of competitive tree-climbing. She will be brought to earth - temporarily, at least - by the surprise news she receives upon a routine clinic visit, a development that in the short term cuts short her plans for a couples bungee jump. What Vowell and Henderson - Curtis and Sophie, if we must - are really interested in, however, are the longer-term effects of this news on the pair's personal and working relationship. Whether or not these two actually want a kid - and thus the thorny matter of whether or not the film will dare to invoke the A-word - seems less important in the scheme of things than the effect a kid would have on their lifestyle. As Zoe, by far the least conservative and least enthusiastic of the central couple, frames it: "I just don't want us to turn into dicks."

Thus does Baby Done present as somehow even more frivolous in its examination of unplanned parenthood than Knocked Up was before it; the moral of this story - surely borne out by someone's lived experience - is that some folk stumble into pregnancy, muddle through, and come out of it all fine; that, whatever choices you ultimately make, it really isn't and shouldn't be that big a deal. (Double-bill it with Pieces of a Woman for bonus shits-and-giggles.) Henderson's script has two solid, sustaining structuring gags. One is that adorable dork Zoe refuses to take any of this seriously: she doesn't even know when she fell pregnant, which leads to a nasty shock during an ultrasound appointment, and a frantic rearranging of plans. The other is that these are two people who can't for the life of them sit still. Early on, we find Zoe and Tim setting down lifeplans on paper, but they're sitting in a cable car as they're doing it; their inevitable turn-of-Act-Three bust-up takes place on a clifftop, and precipitates one of the best sight gags here, involving the couple's dog. Vowell has an eye for such casually amusing set-ups: witness a newly swollen Zoe attempting to slide out from beneath a locked cubicle door, or embarking on a plaster-of-Paris-covered walk of shame. (He and Henderson save the best of these sight gags for the delivery room.) As is customary, the laughrate takes a slight hit as the film lets down the landing gear required to get this child out into the hands of loving, responsible parents. Yet Vowell retains the services of funny supporting players - his own crack squad of comedy midwives - and there's something admirable in the way this getting of wisdom involves no greater strain than, say, that required to pick up a free cake sample outside a coffee shop, back when such things were a possibility. Maintaining such lightness of touch is a skill; the resultant film should prove a tonic wherever you are in your lifecycle.

Baby Done will be available to rent from Friday.

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