Getting older, raising children, maintaining friendships, balancing responsibilities with passions and interests; many aspects of life seem complicated in our fading empire. Babes spins not only outrageous humor but also poignant self reflection from a narrative exploring this current quagmire of adult issues. It walks a fine line, aware as it is that parenting is contentious and fraught. One might want to believe that with our modern context came more compassion and understanding for those capable of bearing children. Instead, our world often feels as patriarchal as ever, finding new and complicated ways to somehow both venerate parenting and make it insanely difficult. Babes is an outrageous and raunchy comedy, often highlighting the unspoken aspects of pregnancy and childbirth, but it also explores in a sensitive way the difficulties of adult friendship. The expectations and rituals of adulthood are transforming with both our social and economic changes. Yet, despite the fluid nature of culture and class, folks are still struggling to have meaningful relationships. Without burdening the more outrageous moments of comedy with too much gravitas, Babes still takes seriously some major struggles in a charming way.

Babes is directed by Pamela Adelon, who is likely most known for her work on Better Things or perhaps her memorable role in The Gate 2, and she handles this material with a steady hand and a style that is present but not distracting. It starts Michelle Buteau and Ilana Glazer as long time friends who are trying to stay connected into adulthood. Buteau’s character Dawn begins the film about to have her second child and her friend Eden (Glazer) is with her as her confidant and surrogate family. The same day Dawn gives birth, Eden gets pregnant and ultimately decides to have the child and become a single mother. The story explores both the new motherhood of Eden and the experienced Dawn as they navigate work and childcare and trying to continue to be best friends.

Glazer is in some ways a controversial figure, and for once I do not mean in some sort of scandalous way. For some reason, despite what I see as endless charm and hilarity, there is a not insignificant part of the American public that seem absolutely allergic to her presence. Yes, some of that is your standard incel troll community, but not exclusively by any means. Despite what appears to my estimation to be the universal charm of both Buteau and Adlon, I cannot ignore the possibility that some potential viewers might be at least Glazer skeptical. If Glazer hits you like cilantro hits some, this film will NOT change your opinion. I found her hilarious and relatable, but she is definitely doing a version of what has become her shtick. As co-writer of this script I am not surprised she crafted a character that works for her brand of comedy but has enough human grounding and empathy to move this narrative forward. For me, the combination of Glazer and Buteau was magic, and their natural chemistry was probably what made this movie near perfect. It helps that the film boasts some absolutely incredible supporting roles from John Caroll Lynch, Stephan James, Oliver Platt, and the endlessly delightful Lucas Brothers. The only performance which I found a bit disappointing was Hasan Minhaj, who was not bad, but did not find anything unique to bring to the character.

As I said, there is a ton of honest and raunchy humor around pregnancy, birth, and relationships. The film doesn’t follow the popular trend of throwing a million jokes against the wall and hoping most stick, but it is chockful of a brand of humor that is outrageous and insightful. It also has a heart around the struggles and pressures on mothers and families. As the son of a single mother that aspect of the narrative weighed particularly heavy for me. There is a silliness to the character of Eden, but that whimsy does not dismiss the pressure of being a single mother. In fact, in all the places that are mined for humor, including the ridiculous doctor played by John Caroll Lynch, there is an inclination toward dignity above disdain. Even the incredibly awkward absentee dad of Eden portrayed with great squirm by Oliver Platt is still given room to be real within the midst of his caricature. The thing I was most surprised by though was the concurrent narrative around friendship. In fact, despite the way the film presents at first or in marketing, I would say the film is as much about this struggle as it is about parenting. As we age, expand our families and circles, and take on varying levels of responsibility it can be harder and harder to remain in community. When we are young friendship has its difficulties, but it doesn’t feel as if the structure of the world is intended to discourage relationships. As we age, there are less and less opportunities to form new friendships and our existing ones are often put to the test by changing life circumstances, like expanding families. The film does not romanticize this struggle or ignore it, instead it embodies it while still attempting to point toward hope and resolution. It is also funny to realize that some of the folks you care about the most might not be growing with you or in the directions you are. The ways Babes explores these common struggles is incredibly moving, and while they are not entirely familiar I still feel connected to them.

The film does have a bit of a minefield to navigate in a culture where more and more individuals are having their ability to choose or not choose to start a family stripped from them. In a world with increasingly draconian bans on abortion as well as a hostility towards LGTBQ identified folks raising children, it can be hard to tell a story of parenting and not encounter a certain hostility from some of your potential audience. Obviously, part of that is the catch 22 of a society that venerates the idea of “having kids” while making real life parenting, especially for those of less abundant means, more and more difficult. To not have a kid is demonized while being a parent who needs help is similarly demonized. It is also true though that for many younger folks the focus of our art on families with children above those families, both romantic and platonic, that do not procreate, is simply outdated and boring. More and more folks feel inclined to not hide the fact that they hate kids and find the idea of having them not only unattractive but selfish. I am very glad, even as a parent, that a response to the last dying gasps of the regime of the nuclear family is to double down on their hostility. I hope though that even those who are perhaps tired of narratives around parenting might still give Babes a chance. It is a human story, a story of love that grows and adapts, and ultimately an incredibly humorous meditation of resilience. It deserves attention well beyond whatever take it has on the idea of “family”.

I think it is clear there is a lot here to endear me to the narrative and emotional core of this film. I too think chosen family is as important as biological and romantic family. I also find the struggles and endurance of single parents to be inspiring and beautiful because it reminds me of the bravery of my own mother. I am incredibly empathetic to the struggle of adults to maintain and grow friendships, and I am really worried about what commentators are calling the loneliness epidemic. Ultimately though, all of the incredible insights and character work in this film around those topics would not make it funny. This could easily be a dramedy that hits all the right notes, with incredible performances, that never once made me laugh. It would be good too, but not great. What makes Babes really great, possibly one of the best of the year, is how incredibly funny it is. Yes, I felt things and got emotional and even saw my own life in the narrative. I also laughed so hard I was embarrassed to be in a public place, and that is why I think you should see it as soon as you can.