Picks and Pans Review: She's Having a Baby

UPDATED 02/22/1988 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/22/1988 at 01:00 AM EST

And he's having a breakthrough. Writer-director John Hughes, after toiling as the Margaret Mead of the teenage subculture with films like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, is now studying the rites and gripes of young adults. It won't make anyone forget sliced bread, but if this endearing, ramshackle comedy is any indication, maybe analyzing adults will bring out the best in Hughes. At his most compelling, Hughes is a crackerjack photo-realist. He's always been expert at capturing the telling moment—though sometimes Hughes has force-fed audiences that moment as the Message. In this case he's created a yupscale Scenes From a Marriage with all the Scandinavian angst taken out, a sort of thirtysomething without the baby-sitter problems. She's Having a Baby catalogs the growing pains of an archetypal Young Couple, Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern, as they slalom through the first five years of their marriage in 106 minutes. As plotted by Hughes, the course is marked with familiar landmarks—the first house, the first extramarital temptation, the last friend from high school. But as he did with Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall in earlier outings, Hughes has found two terrific explorers for his expedition. Playing the WASP husband who narrates this diary, Bacon cleverly conveys the paralyzing ambivalence that is the prerequisite for any Hughes hero. The man of the house suffers from high suburban anxiety, and Bacon, who doesn't have leading-man looks, embodies that out-of-his-element quality. As his faithful wife, McGovern is even more impressive with even less of a part. This woman is basically a cipher, but McGovern colors the underwritten character with an ingratiating splash of spontaneity. These two performers imbue the script with the idiosyncrasy it needs. Even they, however, cannot sell the trumped-up ending that Hughes has grafted onto his movie. That sentimental climax about the birth of their first child is at odds with the leisurely tone of this anecdotal narrative. Otherwise, this script is admirable. It's more elliptical and its jokes are more worldly than in Hughes's earlier efforts. In the past, Hughes usually has seemed so eager to please an audience no matter what the cost that a movie like Sixteen Candles imploded from the weight of its gags. This time he gives the characters—and the audience—some breathing space. Like the couple he chronicles, Hughes seems to be profiting from the maturation process. (PG-13)

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