“You pay the bills. She has the baby. You got a baby mama.”
Kate Holbrook’s doorman, Oscar, puts this quirky twist on some street slang to describe his employer’s relationship with Angie Ostrowiski, the working-class woman Kate has hired to carry her baby.
Yes, Kate has a doorman. And the swanky condo, the power suits, the high-end Audi and the corner office. At 37, she recognizes that she has sacrificed her most fertile years for a vice presidency at her organic grocery company. And, for a while, she thought it didn’t matter. But as she approaches 40, her biological clock is ticking like a time bomb. Money being no object, she tries every option she can think of for acquiring progeny. But adoption takes too long. And artificial insemination doesn’t work. Finally, she lands on surrogacy.
With the help of snooty Chaffee Bicknell’s equally snooty agency, Kate chooses Angie to be her surrogate, even though it’s obvious that the girl and her common-law husband, Carl, are just in it for the money. In contrast to Kate, this baby mama is lowbrow, ambitionless and dirt poor. Their differences are painfully obvious when they meet for the first time. But when a fall out with Carl leaves Angie homeless, she moves in with Kate. As roommates, the two make Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown seem like peas in a pod.
The overall tone of Baby Mama communicates that children are a blessing to their parents. The film acknowledges the innate desire of many women to bear children and presents it as a good and natural thing. It even goes so far as to imply that pursuing a career to the exclusion of family works against women in the end.
In addition, a single dad remembers his shock at finding out that he was an expectant father, then expresses how important his daughter is to him. Kate’s sister, Caroline, expresses the sentiment that, though her life with children isn’t clean, quiet and organized, it is satisfying.
After they’ve (loudly) aired their disagreements, Kate and Angie build a friendship in which each cares for and wants the best for the other. Angie becomes sensitive to Kate’s feelings about her infertility. In return, Kate attempts to guide Angie toward education and fulfilling her dreams.
A doctor points out the baby’s heartbeat during an onscreen ultrasound, humanizing the child. Characters who hurt each other by lying eventually apologize and reconcile.
Steve Martin has too much fun portraying Barry, a successful businessman and hippy mystic who’s moony to the point of being embarrassing. He’s constantly talking about the “essence” of inanimate objects and meditating in strange and uncomfortable positions. He has no sense of “personal space” and often makes others uncomfortable by getting in theirs. He says that Oprah taught him to “trust his instincts” and “follow his fear.”
Angie, too, has some outlandish spiritual ideas, claiming to be able to “read people’s auras.”
At a surrogacy support group, a father-to-be says that he and his wife are Methodists, but their chosen surrogate mother is a Wiccan. He describes how he was uncomfortable with her occult interests at first. “I came around to the idea,” he explains, “or else she put a spell on me.” Later, we hear him singing the praises of “pagan birth” and wondering that he ever considered a birthing experience that didn’t include “eating the placenta.”
As a part of her early attempts to have a child, Kate visits a sperm donor bank. We see her previewing profiles of the donors. She tries to achieve pregnancy through both artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization. Perhaps egged on by her fertility frustrations, Kate has reached a place where she has no qualms about sex outside marriage. When she meets and dates a man named Rob, she quickly points out to him that her breasts are real and indicates that that’s an asset for their budding relationship. They make out on a park bench. And it’s implied that they sleep together after their first dinner date.
Angie tells Kate that her primary qualification for being a surrogate mother is that she’s “good at getting pregnant.” The fact that she has no children, then, implies that she has had multiple abortions. Carl is also a piece of work. In puerile terms, he makes it clear that the most important aspect of his relationship with Angie is the sex. His attitude about it is both demanding and entitled. When he says he misses her, he means he misses having sex (even though he admits to cheating on her while she’s been living at Kate’s).
Carl’s initial understanding of surrogacy includes the misconception that Angie will have to have sex with another man to get pregnant with a baby for Kate. In his mind, this is an option, though he figures he should be paid more for allowing it to happen. Angie quickly nixes the idea.
Kate’s uncommon relationship with Angie is played several times as a lesbian double entendre. A slo-mo montage of them at the fertility clinic looks like a scene of two people falling in love. And Kate’s mother speaks of her daughter’s “alternative lifestyle,” but it turns out she’s referring to the fact that Kate is 37 and single.
Conversations and visual images naturally revolve around sex, fertility and pregnancy. Subtopics include Kate’s uterus, pregnancy tests, the perineum, female exams, suppositories, breasts, breast pumps, penises and hermaphrodites. Often crude words are substituted for medical ones.
Angie is shown multiple times in revealing outfits: A sports bra and leggings. A belly-baring halter top. When she and Kate go clubbing, Angie makes the wardrobe choices for both of them, so they’re out on the town dressed in everything short, tight and low-cut. Angie is an old hand at bumping and grinding on the dance floor, but discovers that her bulging belly is a turn off to potential dance partners. Female characters in a video game are scantily clad. On a couple of occasions, characters sing songs with sexual overtones such as “She Bangs.”
Oscar implies that every black man in Philadelphia has children out of wedlock.
In a deliberate act of vandalism, Angie throws a metal trash can through the rear window of an expensive car. Kate and Angie have a childish wrestling match in the shower (both fully clothed) because Kate is angry at Angie for exposing her child to the chemicals in hair dye. Two characters faint and fall hard to the floor. A father is shown playing violent video games while holding his infant.
Kate says that the hormone injections she’s taking make her want to punch someone in the face. Upon discovering the cost of surrogacy, Kate remarks, “It costs more to have someone born than to have someone killed!” Angie tells Kate that she’d “rather be shot in the face than eat this stupid [healthy] food.”
God’s name is abused in a half-dozen incidences, and the s-word is employed almost as many times. In a sexual context, Angie substitutes effing for the f-word. Additional crudities include “pr–k,” “d–k” and “horny.”
Angie doesn’t give up her smoking habit right away, even though she’s repeatedly warned that it’s unhealthy for the baby. (More is said than shown regarding her smoking.) Kate, Angie and other patrons drink at a club.
Baby Mama makes Kate’s mother out to be selfish and irresponsible for her use of prescription drugs for cosmetic purposes when she knew that they could cause birth defects. It’s implied that her use of these drugs during pregnancy is what has caused Kate’s infertility. Also, Angie really likes the anesthetic she’s given during the implantation procedure and asks how she can find it on the street.
For all its cheerleading about the value of children, Baby Mama is ambivalent about marriage. Carl and Angie make a big deal about their common-law marriage: “He didn’t ask me to be his wife. But he didn’t ask me not to be his wife.” Kate has also cohabited with a man who wasn’t her husband. Now she says, “I aspire to meet someone, fall in love and get married … but that is a high-risk scenario. And I want a baby now!” From start to finish, this movie assumes that marriage is not a needful predecessor to parenthood. In fact, it outright says so through the voice of Rob, who tells Kate, “You don’t have to be married to have a kid.”
We see Carl on the toilet, but a partially closed door covers his midsection. Angie, on the other hand, is not able to operate the prematurely placed child safety lock on the toilet at Kate’s house and resorts to urinating in the sink. (Audiences see her perched atop it while in progress.)
Caroline asks her young son if the brown residue on his arm is “chocolate or poop.” When he doesn’t answer, she licks his arm to find out. During an argument, Angie tells Kate, “I farted in your purse.”
Angie steals a baby accessory from Kate’s house.
“Enjoy it, Kate—this is your baby!”
No, that’s not what Kate hears when she accompanies Angie to the hospital maternity ward. It’s Barry’s congratulatory sentiment at the grand opening of another giant Round Earth organic foods store.
If this movie has any serious points, this is one of them—that women can’t wait forever to have children, and sacrificing a family for career isn’t always the smartest choice.
I say if because it’s sometimes hard to tell amidst the Saturday Night Live-style overacting and tongue-in-cheek mannerisms of stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. (Who, not coincidentally, got their start on SNL.)
That’s OK, so far as it goes. But Baby Mama also touts the idea that marriage is completely irrelevant to parenting and stable families. And it’s full of sexual joking and crude language.