Keaton's Left Holding the Baby
"Baby Boom" starts off as one thing covering the humorous trials and tribulations of instant motherhood for a career minded woman and then it slowly changes into a tale of single motherhood as balancing career with bringing up baby cause more troubles and then it changes once more into an obvious romantic comedy. All of which left me slightly bemused because "Baby Boom" starts off so well with an underlying message about women, work and motherhood then pretty much throws it all a way by floating off into a romantic tale which is so obvious it hurts.
Life for successful New York business woman J.C. Wiatt (Diane Keaton - The Godfather: Part II) is going well, she has an equally career minded partner and has just been offered a partnership in the business. But that all changes when a relative suddenly dies and she inherits their baby daughter Elizabeth. Not ready for motherhood J.C. struggles not only with the basics of looking after a baby but also balancing instant motherhood with her career which is made all the worse when her boyfriend leaves her. As things spiral out of control career wise J.C. decides to quit the city and head for a quiet life in the country but that brings some surprising changes for the career minded woman.
As already mentioned "Baby Boom" does start quite well as we are introduced to the career minded J.C. Wiatt and her boyfriend Steven Buchner and when the unexpected bundle of joy falls into their laps the comedy surrounding such obvious baby issues as changing nappies, meal times and juggling work with motherhood raises plenty of laughs. Director Charles Shyer seems to have a tight grip on the material and despite delivering much which is expected seems to be lining us up for some moralistic message about having it all, a successful career and a family.
But then "Baby Boom" moves on and morphs into a tale of single motherhood continuing to ply us with the troubles of juggling career with bringing up a baby and as such more obvious scenes ensue with the expected interviewing for nannies and suddenly learning that bringing up a child takes a lot of planning if you want them to get into the best schools. Not that any of this is bad as the comedy for the most works and the arc of the story with J.C. finding herself being edged out from her job adds a strange sort of realism to it. It still seems to have a grip on that message highlighting the inequalities when it comes to being a working woman.
Then for some reason "Baby Boom" pretty much morphs again and the storyline ends up taking a completely unoriginal and formulaic romantic twist, intertwined with more career and baby issues. I don't know what happened because up to this point "Baby Boom" had been a good movie, funny yet still delivering some form of message and then it pretty much loses it all to a formulaic romance. Even an attempt to return to the idea of you can't have it all, a career, family and romance fails to be anything more than a disappointing cliche.
The trouble really stems from it starting so well with some really funny scenes such as weighing the baby in the supermarket scales that it just can't match up the longer it goes on. It ends up struggling to be anything more than just routine as every scene passes by and it doesn't help that the emphasis of the movie also changes from being about the troubles of instant motherhood into a soppy romance making it feel distinctly average.
But "Baby Boom" is made to work thanks to the clever casting of Diane Keaton who at first I struggled to take seriously as a career minded business woman but who won me over with the way she bosses around her staff including corporate climber Ken, a stereotypical role for a young James Spader. It's when Keaton's character not only struggles with unexpected motherhood but also the way she warms to being a mother which wins you over. It's strangely believable and although scenes are often played slightly over the top for laughs, duct taping a nappy on being a memorable one, you warm to her character as well as the obvious cute baby who waves and says "Hi" just at the right time.
Aside from Keaton, well Harold Ramis is naturally funny as her go getting boyfriend; in fact Ramis doesn't really need to do anything as he naturally causes laughs. And Sam Shepard does an adequate enough job in the final third of the movie as the obvious love interest. But "Baby Boom" is very much Diane Keaton's movie and as such she leads it well making even the final third a little bit amusing despite the disappointing story.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Baby Boom" starts on a high with a nice storyline and plenty of funny moments, it slowly slips down the slope till it ends up as quite an obvious and disappointing romance. It's not terrible and there are plenty of humorous moments but it could have been so much more.
Tags: Instant Families