Alec Baldwin Home School: She’s Having a Baby
I know, I know! I introduced a brand new feature four months ago and never mentioned it again. Put all the blame squarely on me, and not on our noble hero, Alec Baldwin, who makes his triumphant return in this installment of Alec Baldwin Home School.
You can check the first post for a proper introduction to the concept, but in short, Mr. Baldwin has announced that he’s retiring from acting. He’s not a fan of his work, and thinks he’s never turned in a worthwhile performance. We, gentle reader, are going to test his theory by journeying through his entire filmography. What wonders will we find? What horrors will we endure? Time will tell! The fun began with Forever, Lulu and continues now with She’s Having a Baby.
In the late 80’s, John Hughes was writing and directing every third movie Hollywood released, thanks partly to the terrifying voodoo spell that forced all others to do his bidding, and partly to his masterful knack for pairing interesting plots with identifiable characters. Unfortunately, that talent doesn’t really shine through in 1988’s She’s Having a Baby.
Kevin Bacon plays Jake, a young newlywed struggling to pay the bills while working nights on his novel. He’s got no clue what he wants out of life, leading him to question his marriage to Kristy, played by Elizabeth McGovern, who is far prettier than the hair and fashion of the era would have you believe. Of course, things get even scarier when he finds out that she is–in fact–having a baby.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, because this titular turning point doesn’t happen until like an HOUR in. We actually begin on the young couple’s wedding day. Our hero has cold feet, and who’s there to act as the embodiment of his desire to remain footloose (get it?) and fancy free? None other than his best pal Davis, brought to life by one Alec Baldwin. Davis is essentially that no-account asshole friend that everybody has in college. He’s a lot of fun, but eventually you grow out of him. Then when you see him again 5 years later and he hasn’t changed a bit, it’s all sad and awkward.
Davis makes a half-joking attempt to convince Jake to call off the wedding. Both Baldwin’s performance and Bacon’s narration hint that Davis would rather keep Jake all to himself. On the surface, it’s a comment on the pseudo-marriage that develops between best friends. Below the surface, Davis is totally gay for Jake, and Baldwin makes sure it comes through via lots of meaningful staring at things. Then Davis disappears for a good chunk of the film, leaving Jake to deal with his new evil father-in-law, a job he hates, and plenty of pointless arguments with Kristy.
With Jake’s depressing suburban existence firmly established, Davis shows up once again. He’s living in New York now, but he’s brought his slutty model girlfriend along for a visit. This leads to a big fight with Kristy, giving Davis the perfect opportunity to slide in with some straight talk. He misses Jake. Kristy’s great, but she’s tying him down! He can’t be a writer in the suburbs! He should come to New York! It’s a pretty transparent attempt to reconnect with Jake, and he declines the offer, but it’s obvious that he’s tempted.
Then there’s some more standard-issue married life drama. Jake’s boss tells him he’ll never be a real writer. Jake meets some chick at a club who he begins fantasizing about. You get the idea. Finally, in what I took as a desperate ploy to save the relationship, Kristy attempts to get pregnant by secretly going off her birth control. This doesn’t work, mostly because it would have been pretty depressing if it had, so she comes clean to Jake and the two start trying in earnest to have a kid. With sex itself now reduced to work, Jake is more downtrodden than ever.
Hey! Davis is back! This time he confronts Kristy about whether Jake is ready to be a father, then awkwardly hits on her. It’s actually the movie’s best scene. Davis, now resigned to the fact that Jake’s not coming back to him, reaches out for a connection by proxy. Or maybe he’s just trying to screw up their relationship, whatever. Kristy refuses, but she’s more bemused than angry, leaving Davis confused and alone.
At last, Kristy gets pregnant and everything is magically awesome again! Not for Davis, who we never see again and who has presumably gone off to hang himself, but who cares! After a short montage, Kristy goes into labor. Things look touch and go for a second because there should probably be something resembling a climax at some point, then everything turns out great. So great, that it’s revealed that Jake has finished his novel which is entitled, oh yes, “She’s Having a Baby.”
Sorry, John Hughes, but BOOOOOORRRRIIINNNG. The movie’s front-loaded with a so many “Gee, we’re young and in love, but marriage sure is tough!” scenes that I mistook it for a film adaptation of For Better or For Worse. It comes off as so cliche and easy. Yes, starting a family is scary, and it’s clear that Hughes is writing from his own experience, but he brings nothing new to the trope. Not to mention the fact that everything just kind of serendipitously works out for Jake and Kristy, to the point that it feels like that’s the moral. “I know it seems like every moment of your life since you said ‘I do’ has been a horrible mistake, but don’t worry! At some point you’ll have a kid and everything will suddenly make perfect sense!” Plus it’s slow and not that funny.
Luckily, for our purposes anyway, the highlight of the film is actually Alec Baldwin. I’d have rather seen a movie about the mournful, sardonic, closeted homosexual who boxes up his longing for his best friend and drowns it in booze and blonds until he snaps and makes a laughable pass at the very woman who robbed him of his happiness. But even as an ancillary character in a bland family comedy, Davis shines. You can see his repressed feelings simmering under the surface in every scene, and he gets some of the best lines in the film, including the one I’ve quoted below, which you’ll want to adopt as your new Facebook status immediately.
My only knock is that Baldwin has the melodrama meter cranked up to dangerous levels. Every impressive display of subtle emotion is immediately followed by a mood swing or bout of pensive smoking. Still, I dug the performance, and I view it as a great second entry in our subject’s catalog.
Movie Rating: 5 out of 10
Baldwin Rating: 7 out of 10
Biggest Takeaway: This explains why that dude I played hacky sack with on the quad cried when I graduated.
Quote for Your Facebook Status: “It’s rude and it’s wrong, but it’s right on the money.”