Babysplitters – VIFF 2019 Review

Writer-director Sam Friedlander’s refreshingly upbeat comedy sets its sights on the ambiguity couples often have over whether or not to have kids. Presenting itself as something of a modernized screwball comedy––and I’ll define that for people unfamiliar with the sometimes misused term; it’s a rom-com subgenre from the Golden Age of Hollywood that juxtaposes opposites while presenting broad, sophisticated and slapstick humor––with lots of awkward and uncomfortable gags, as well as shrewdly observed commentary on progressive parenting tactics, Babysplitters is undoubtedly one of the funniest, and most compassionate indie comedies of the year.

Sarah (Emily Chang) and Jeff Penaras (Danny Pudi) are a busy, newly-wedded Los Angelinos couple who, along with their best friends Taylor (Maiara Walsh) and Don Small (Eddie Alfano) have often entertained the idea of becoming parents, but can’t see the good without all the bad that would come with such a life-changing experience.

It’s Jeff who comes up with an idea that at first, no one else can really entertain beyond being some lively pre-dinner banter. His plan, in a nutshell, is that both couples could share one baby, without impacting too greatly all the freedoms of being childless represents. It sounds like the perfect compromise, which of course it isn’t at all once this plan is enacted.

To say too much about the delightfully zigzagging trajectory that Babysplitters takes us down would ruin a lot of the ensuing absurdity and diversion, which is ample and often at a feverishly fast-clip––the perhaps daunting two hour run time just flies by––suffice it to say their plan gets very messy, devolving into what Don describes as “the worst of both worlds.”

There’s no shortage of big laughs in the film; from Sarah and Jeff enduring a painfully on point dinner party with their friends with horribly misbehaving children, Don’s penchant for pillow talk involving a “dirty dinosaur”, the couple’s hilariously misguided GP (Brian Thomas Smith), to Jeff’s overly affable boss (Ben Goldsmith), who comes off like an overstimulated Jason Schwartzman. Nor is the cast ever less than excellent, making the most of Friedlander’s antic and engrossing script.

If there’s any real shortcomings with Babysplitters at all it might be that it’s full to the brim with almost too much to say (one or two subplots could be dropped, but they all get a laugh so why bother?), like a fantastic and satisfying meal that has maybe one too many courses. That’s not a bad thing if you’re really hungry or just want to roar with laughter for a couple of hours. It gets a little sappy, as the genre often does, but Babysplitters is also sharp, satisfying, and funny as hell. Recommended.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.