Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Review: Nasty Baby (Silva, 2015)

The premise of Sebastián Silva's 2015 film Nasty Baby makes you expect a feel-good-movie about Brooklyn hipsters in their attempt of starting a non-traditional family. Freddy (played by Silva himself) is an artist who wants to start a family with his partner Mo (the absolutely handsome Tunde Adebimpe). Freddy's friend Polly (Kristen Wiig) is set out to be the biological mother; but when Freddy´s semen does not do the trick, Mo is hesitant to take up the role. Does the tension come from the fact that Freddy is the one who really wants the child - so much that his current work is all about babies? Or is it about the close relationship between Freddy and Polly, that Mo does not share?

Freddy' and Mo's apartment is the most central to the events of the film; it is stylish and spacious enough for Freddy's studio, Mo's countless house plants and their cat. The light fades through the leaves, and friends and family come and go in the open flat. Their only worry seems to be Polly not getting pregnant yet - and the unbalanced outsider appearing on their street and calling himself the Bishop (Reg E. Cathey). Contrasting to their light living room, the street becomes a scary place; but what really bugs Freddy off, is the Bishop leaf-blowing in the mornings.

In the very end of the slow paced film, the tone gets a complete makeover; Moze Halperin calls the ending "kinda Shakespearean" in his Flavorwire review. It's almost brilliant, but stumbles on the steep change of pacing - as well as the events not seeming to naturally progress into this ending. However, when it does not 100% work, it still offers enjoyment with the surprise, as well as underlines thematic richness.

The shock of the ending has a danger to overpower the more nuanced - and in my opinion more interesting - ways the movie works with its themes even earlier in the film. The three main characters are sympathetic with the actors doing great job with their naturalistic performance; but they are not likable at all. Freddy is cranky and thinks his art project "nasty baby" is genius, when it so obviously flops. Mo is distant. Polly is so invested in the pregnancy, that she forgets the feelings of others. They smoke weed while talking about starting a family, they are irresponsible and self-centered. While trying to make Mo - who's black - to agree to be the donor, Polly takes a picture of Freddy with a stranger's black child to make Mo agree how cute a mixed race baby would be - the most cringey scene I have seen in a long while. For the trio, the idea of a child is just an extension of their own ego.

And when the Bishop appears on their street, they are more concerned about their own comfort than the people who have lost all security. Not part of their world, the likes of the Bishop can be forgotten. And where Nasty Baby brilliantly delivers subtle commentary on modern society, it sadly will not leave a lasting effect.

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