Director: Sebastián Silva
Writer: Sebastián Silva
Cast: Sebastián Silva, Kristen Wiig, Tunde Adebimpe, Alia Shawkat, Mark Margolis, Reg E. Cathey
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 21.9.2015
[Reviews by cornholio and Maynard.]
Polly (Kristen Wiig) really wants to have a baby. Her best friend Freddy (Sebastián Silva), too, and since he’s gay, they decided to try and have one together. But Freddy’s sperm count is low, so they try to convince his partner Mo (Tunde Adebimpe) to step up, despite Mo being less into the idea of having a child. As they wait for the go ahead and the positive pregnancy test, Freddy not only works on an art project where he behaves like a baby, he also starts a little war with a mentally ill man, the Bishop (Reg E. Cathey), in the neighborhood.
Nasty Baby wasn’t a bad film, but it wasn’t completely well-rounded either. It changed its pace quite a few times, and not all of those changes would have been necessary or were actually advisable.
The first 90 minutes of the film (or so), it’s actually a nice little indie, slightly romantic comedy that had me laughing out loud more than once. From Freddy’s art project (including the absurd gallery visit with the even more absurd oracle) to the cat, there was a light sense of humor suffused throughout the entire film.
Which meant that the ending, where the Bishop follows Freddy into the apartment and Freddy kills him, leading to the protagonists disposing of the Bishop’s body and moving on with their lives as if nothing happened (the credits show them all rollerblading while Let Me Think About It is playing, having an apparently grand time), felt extremely out of place. How did we get from joking about sperm counts to mopping up blood?
While that didn’t work for me from a narrative point of view, I liked it in terms of what it had to say: for one, death arrives unannounced and at most inopportune moments, both in this film and in real life. But more importantly, the film raises interesting questions of intersecionality: a black man, an illegally immigrated latino who are in a relationship and a single white woman who don’t seem to have any money problems and can even indulge in risky art projects decide to have a baby together and kill a mentally ill, poor black man. Despite it being self-defence (or at least as much self-defence that it wouldn’t have been a problem in court), they can’t come clean because of Freddy’s status. So together they get rid off his body and thus manage to reinstate a normality that was severely called into question by the Bishop’s behavior. The ease with which they all do that and with which they then go back to their lives underscores the marginalized position of people with mental health issues and no money.
If Silva had managed to pack all of that into a film that is more consistent in tone and maybe even clearer on its own (moral/ethical) position, I would be singing its praises. Nasty Baby is a little too lopsided for that. But it’s still an extremely strong film with a lot to say.