Saturday, July 7, 2012
Movie Review: Baby Boom (1987)
A sharp comedy probing the status of women in the work place, Baby Boom asks whether a woman can have it all. The answer is a yes hiding in a no, throwing doubt on the definition of "all". Baby Boom is a smart and funny cultural milestone.
J.C. briefly considers giving the child up for adoption, but a bond forms quickly. She tries to juggle motherhood with her work, but her performance suffers and her equally work-obsessed live-in boyfriend (Harold Ramis) leaves to find a diaper-free environment. J.C. is eventually forced to accept humiliating work assignments and makes the decision to quit. She relocates to an old country house in Vermont, where her new life also includes a fresh business venture and some unexpected choices.
With the decade of greed in full swing and the movie Wall Street (also from 1987) offering a distorted definition of success, Baby Boom pauses and checks on society's priorities. It's a brave move from the writing duo of Nancy Myers and Charles Shyer to throw a baby into the hands of a high powered executive and alter her life trajectory for the better. That J.C. discovers the potential for her world to be a richer place with more Elizabeth and fewer meetings makes a statement, and offers a perspective not often championed.
Shyer directs with an eye for strong parallels, the sharp black edges of New York underlining J.C.'s rocketing pre-baby career trajectory, the softer, colour-rich environment of Vermont welcoming a new, softer, slower but no less rewarding phase of her life. The country bumpkin elements are slightly overplayed as J.C. adjusts to the pace, but the film always places its heart in the right place.
Life can take unexpected turns, and variants of success can be found in the company of unexpected packages. Baby Boom is brave enough to weigh Partner against Mother, and succeeds as both comedy and social commentary.
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