Review: Nasty Baby (Sundance 2015)

Nasty Baby (Sundance 2015)
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PLOT: A Manhattan gay couple (Sebastian Silva & Tunde Adebimpe) try to have a baby with their best friend (Kristen Wiig) but wind up dealing with a dilemma that shakes all of them to the core and tests their devotion to each other.

REVIEW: Sebastian Silva's a director I've been interested in for awhile now. Two years ago, he hit Sundance with not one, but two strikingly different films, CRYSTAL FAIRY and MAGIC MAGIC. Now he's back with NASTY BABY, a film which on the surface is a deceptively simple comedy, but one that poses some pretty disturbing questions about morality in its polarizing third act – something that has led to divided reactions from Sundance audiences so far. Some love it, some hate it. I'm in the love it category.

It's weird how in synch I felt with Silva in this. I grew to adore the characters and I wanted the best for them by the time “shit got real” towards the end, and this is audience manipulation that borders on the dementedly brilliant by Silva. If you spend an hour getting attached to characters and identifying with them, it figures that you'll be on their side even when they cross lines that simply shouldn't be crossed no matter the circumstances.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. For about seventy-five percent of the running time, NASTY BABY is a good-natured slice-of-life comedy that takes a three dimensional look at the evolving American family. At one point, a character asks Wiig, Silva and Adebimpe how they could possibly raise a child in a normal way with three parents, but what is normal these days? The argument here is that, as a gay couple, Silva and Adebimpe have to actively fight to have a child. Doesn't that make them just as capable as the conventional couple who might have gotten pregnant by mistake?

What's really interesting is that Silva's film is far from dogmatic. It presents the conflicts that may arise from pairing three people with different agendas, but the moral here is that when people are devoted to each other, there's nothing they won't do to protect the one they love – which is something that's tested in a real, violent way in the climax.

The three leads are exceptional. Silva is a one-man-band here, having written, directed and starred in NASTY BABY. Clearly he's passionate about the material, and as a leading man he's eminently likable. The same goes for his spouse, the much more macho Tunde Adebimpe (of TV of the Radio) who subverts all the gay stereotypes Hollywood bombards us with, being a man's man who just happens to be gay, and has a kind streak a mile long. The same goes for Wiig, in a part that feels like she's playing someone very close to how she is in real life, being funny, sarcastic, but also incredibly compassionate and loving (a near throw-away scene where she comforts a victim of domestic abuse is outstanding). Basically, you want to be friends with these people, and their community – from the older, mysterious gay man who lives downstairs (Mark Margolis), to Silva's straight brother, his assistant (Alia Shawkat) and even the crazy homeless guy who lives down the street (Reg E. Cathey) – feels authentic, like these are real living and breathing people, with absolutely no Hollywood BS mixed in.

In a way I feel like my review is doing NASTY BABY a slight disservice as I'm making it sound awfully serious. Actually, it's really funny, and Silva's got a lot of style behind the camera. A showstopping roller-skating dance number (which plays over the end credits) is virtuoso directing, and makes me wish he'd do a musical at some point as this three-minute sequence has more style than all of INTO THE WOODS. NASTY BABY is definitely going to polarize folks, but it's a really worthwhile film, and a one of the gems that's emerged from this year's Sundance.

Source: JoBlo.com



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