Credit: Neon
by Selina Lee Featured Film Horizon Line

Babes — Pamela Adlon

May 16, 2024

For expectant moms seeking the sort of potty humor that What To Expect When You’re Expecting, simply can’t deliver, Pamela Adlon’s debut feature film Babes might be just what the OB-GYN ordered. Ilana Glazer and Michelle Buteau star as Eden and Dawn, two lifelong besties who find themselves dealing with back-to-back pregnancies under wildly different circumstances. Eden, who teaches yoga out of her apartment, isn’t all that different from Glazer’s Broad City alter ego: she has no problem FaceTiming you from the shower, but might be too much of a space cadet to rely on for everyday life. That doesn’t stop her from regularly taking four subways to see Dawn, who decamped from their home base in Astoria to the Upper West Side so she can raise a family with her infinitely patient husband Marty (Hasan Minhaj).

After a series of gags involving wet chairs, a very startled waiter, and a great deal of poop, Dawn gives birth to her second baby. On the way home from the hospital, Eden has an extended meet-cute with an actor named Claude (Stephen James), leading to a one-night stand and the film’s second pregnancy. In chronicling the following nine months, no body function is too vulgar and no body fluid too taboo, an approach that lands Babes firmly in the same camp as raunchy buddy comedies like Bridesmaids and Girls Trip. Bookending the film with two births gives each actor ample opportunity to showcase their comedic chops, but Glazer’s ecstatically babbly monologue about the miracle of life is a tear-jerker for the ages. Eden and Dawn’s effortless chemistry stems from Glazer and Buteau’s real-life friendship, and Babes is at its best when viewers feel like they have been folded into a lifetime’s worth of inside jokes.

Glazer and Broad City alum Josh Rabinowitz, who co-wrote the script, skate over the very glum realities that working mothers are left to deal with once their bundles of joy come out of the oven. Though the film is set in the present day, no mention is made of NYC’s childcare shortage, affordable housing crisis, or the lack of national paid family leave legislation. Eden’s right to choose is never contested, and even Dawn’s very clear case of postpartum depression is never named as such. Instead, the film takes viewers down a far more upbeat route, the script hewing to Glazer and Buteau’s natural strengths as actors and comedians while going out of its way to normalize some of pregnancy’s less picturesque moments.

In between morning sickness, unreliable childcare, and the thousand other casual indignities of pregnancy and new parenthood, Eden and Dawn must also navigate the conundrums that no one ever tells you will crop up when you and your friends reach a certain age. Salary disparities appear and then become hard to ignore: Dawn is a successful dentist living in a tastefully decorated multi-story Brooklyn brownstone, while Eden lives in a 4th-floor walk-up with an industrial popcorn maker and pinball machine. Conventional life milestones are reached at very different times, if at all: Dawn is a wife and mother; Eden is, by Glazer’s own admission, someone who “hasn’t had many romantic relationships in her life.” When the cracks threaten to splinter their friendship, it’s as inevitable as their eventual reconciliation. Babes is a celebration of their resilience as individuals and the time, effort, and love each has poured into their shared life (get in line, Marty.) It takes a village to raise a child, and that doesn’t simply go away when the kid grows up — nor should it.

DIRECTOR: Pamela Adlon;  CAST: Ilana Glazer, Michelle Buteau, Hasan Minhaj, John Carroll Lynch;  DISTRIBUTOR: NEON;  IN THEATERS: May 17;  RUNTIME: 1 hr. 49 min.