Flicks & Folios – Film Review: The Baby Dance

April 2, 2003

Yet again doing the channel-flipping thing I bumped into a film I would not have watched without seeing some of these well-crafted performances unexpectedly.

The Baby Dance is a 1998 television production that should have garnered major awards. I don’t know how some of these fantastic films ever get ignored!

Laura Dern stars as Wanda, a Louisiana housewife expecting her fifth child. As her husband, played by Richard Lineback, is an unemployed no-goodnik she is forced to consider giving her child up for adoption.

Jane Anderson wrote the screenplay and directed. She wrote from personal experience, although she changed the settings and captured so much of the frustration on both sides of the coin when people adopt a child while leaving her personal homosexual angle out of the picture. In reality, Jane and her partner are lesbians who adopted a baby boy from Paraguay after trying to find a child in the United States. They went through so many problems as a gay couple that they hid their status in order to secure the child of their dreams. Jane could have easily made this a platform for gay parents but chose to tell the story from a heterosexual angle and capture the process from a more “traditional” angle. Doing so has shown her ability to write rather than chronicle. I admire this talent.

Mega-power Jody Foster executive produced the film through her company Egg Productions. Not a vanity film company, Jody’s firm produces, gains funds, and she often directs projects she believes in whether they star her or not. Indeed Jody has no part on screen in Baby Dance.

Now let’s highlight the plot.

Stockard Channing plays Rachel and Peter Riegert plays Richard. They are a high-powered Los Angeles couple longing for a child. After going nowhere with one medical procedure after another, they advertise for a baby.

This introduces us to Wanda and Al, who are really just subsisting in a Shreveport, Louisiana trailer park while their four kids camp out at Wanda’s mom’s. Wanda is six months’ pregnant. What follows is an emotional roller coaster of two disparate families awkwardly trying to lead and follow in pregnancy’s “dance.”

Rachel and Richard are Jewish and are both in the film industry behind the scenes. Wanda and Al are living in a different world as Christians who cannot imagine anyone else’s beliefs. Stockard’s character tries valiantly to work with Laura’s narrow understanding and begins to glumly agree to Laura’s religious needs for the unborn child.

The dialogue is incredibly well written and performed. The interruptions of sentences and timing changes were so realistic that they made me feel like a voyeur at times.

Deft touches that only masters of the screen can pull off were evident throughout. Tiny details made the sets so real that there was no feel of objects being “placed”.

As the story progresses, we discover that Rachel provided money for Wanda and Al to purchase an air-conditioner and medical care, while Al reveals himself as a regular drinker who is using funds provided for the baby as his personal pin money.

Laura pulls off a beautiful portrayal of a woman raised to keep her mouth shut and stand by her man. Soon she finds that duty hard to perform.

Rachel is also trained to be polite but is finding it hard to watch the money set aside for the child disappearing behind one excuse after another. She and Richard are strained even further when the birth process begins to go wrong. They are told the child may have developmental damage. They are torn:do they continue with the adoption or don’t they? Anger, fear and doubt colour the process as we head toward the end of the film.

Since I think Stockard is such a talented actress and Peter has long been on my list of sexy guys, I watched with even more interest. I’m not revealing the ending -I want your input instead.

The film is an hour and thirty minutes and I would warn you ahead of time to be aware that the birth sequence is NOT suitable for those who don’t appreciate a tactful touch of reality. There is blood and there are some scary moments.

Shister, Gail. The parent trip. (the story behind the new film ‘The Baby Dance’). The Advocate. Sept 1, 1998. Available online at: http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m1589/n767/21148320/p1/article.jhtml

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).

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