Another entry in the series where I finally watch the movies whose trailers I’ve seen a million times on VHS tapes that were played on a constant loop throughout adolescence. So far, the coming attractions are universally terrible.
Many of us grew up loving and defining our high school experiences through John Hughes films. I still have a hard time rectifying my deeply entrenched nostalgia for the movies that kept me company for untold hours in adolescence with their often troubling themes: the fact that Sixteen Candles makes light of what is objectively a date rape or that The Breakfast Club features some graphic sexual harassment, among other issues. But seeing his 1988 film She's Having a Baby as an adult, there's no internal conflict about identifying exactly what is so absurd and awful about this movie.
Hughes films, many of them rom-coms, tended to end the story right about the time a couple got together. So She’s Having a Baby, which came out a few years after his Brat Pack stride, is the logical next step in these characters’ lives. It starts with high school sweethearts’ wedding day and the mundane horror (only experienced by men, apparently) of settling down into a career and married life after the excitement of courtship is over.
This isn’t the She’s Having a Baby trailer that I remember. I don’t know if it came before St. Elmo’s Fire or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or something else. The trailer I remember featured a semi-ominous strings score with quick cuts that made it seem like this coming-of-age dramedy was a lot more serious than it turns out to be. Here’s the only trailer I can find online—it’s a lot truer to the movie’s tone.
It’s a terrible movie for many reasons. These are just 10.
1. The protagonist is a milquetoast, mealy mouthed douche. Kevin Bacon is in love with his wife but alternately consumed by either the nightclub-hopping life he thinks singletons enjoy or a massive sense of entitlement as a brilliant-yet-undiscovered writer (by day an ad copywriter). His magnum opus ends up being the story told in this sappy, crappy movie.
2. Despite the fact that all of the main characters supposedly grew up in Chicagoland, the wife, Elizabeth McGovern, is the only one who has an accent. Those naaaaaaging A’s.
3. There’s so little development of why Bacon and McGovern even like each other that we don’t particularly care if their relationship can last despite temptation. See No. 6.
4. The depiction of marriage is insulting to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship, but especially hetero women. This film adds to the cultural narrative that marriage is something that women inherently want and that makes men inherently miserable. When McGovern is given something to do except stare blankly at something, she’s only concerned with nagging Bacon or getting knocked up (and taking the pleasure out of sex). Bonus points for the revelation that McGovern has never, ever, in their yearslong relationship, initiated sex. Except when she went baby crazy.
5. Which brings us to the totally fucked-up theme of McGovern trying to sneakily get pregnant. The trailer above frames this as part of "every married life"—when your lady tells you she’s gone off the pill. Most women don’t just stop using contraceptives without telling their partners. We all probably know a few women who would—but they are few. And probably blood relatives.
6. At one point, the sleazy, bad-influence, bachelor best friend (Alec Baldwin) comes on to McGovern and tells her she’s the only person he’s ever loved. This follows longing glances in the one or two scenes he’s in before this. It’s unbelievable that Baldwin pulls off tortured, unrequited love in the face of McGovern’s just plain wooden performance. But he does! So it’s pretty unsatisfying that she doesn’t go for it. That would have made exactly one unexpected plot point in the whole movie.
7. Speaking of the totally dreamy young Baldwin, anyone who rejects hetero, married, suburban bliss is either sinister or secretly depressed, according to this film. Deep down, Baldwin just wants a nice wife. And his one-time girlfriend, who isn’t interested in the suburbs or tradition, is a condescending jerk who doesn’t even care that her mother is dead. And according to Baldwin, she’s also a “slut.” That’s right, she dared to have sex with him for fun.
8. The tone is all over the place. The scenes of Bacon imagining assenting to suburban-consumer-hell vows during his wedding, seeing his lawn-mowing neighbors break into dance to point out their all-but-choreographed existence, and—a personal favorite—him burning the pages of his book to keep his wife and would-be child warm, are jarring, unfunny, and out of place. Especially when life-threatening stuff turns the movie to tear-jerker territory. Father of the Bride walked this line much more successfully a few years later.
9. There are weird cameos during the ending credits of Hughes-film stars and other stars in character, including folks from Cheers and Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s the cherry on top of a random, inconsistent movie. How does it work in the diegesis that Ferris Bueller and the guys from The Great Outdoors are suggesting names for the baby? Maybe because most Hughes films are set around Chicago?
10. The film is called She’s Having a Baby, but “she” isn’t even pregnant until well over an hour into the 106-minute movie.
Bechdel Test: Pass, barely
Feminist Grade: F
Overall Grade: D-