Review: ‘Babes” (2024), starring Ilana Glazer and Michelle Buteau

May 16, 2024

by Carla Hay

Ilana Glazer and Michelle Buteau in “Babes” (Photo by Gwen Capistran/Neon)

“Babes” (2024)

Directed by Pamela Adlon

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, from 2019 to 2020, the comedy film “Babes” features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, African American and Asian) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two longtime best friends go through very different experiences when they get pregnant and give birth within a year-and-a-half of each other. 

Culture Audience: “Babes” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners, director Pamela Adlon and female-focused movies that have adult-oriented comedy.

Michelle Buteau and Ilana Glazer in “Babes” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

“Babes” won’t be considered a major classic for films about childbirth and motherhood, but it’s entertaining enough for viewers who can tolerate crude jokes. The movie tries too hard to be raunchy, but the jokes are more hit than miss. Some of the situations in the movie are unrealistically absurd (and not in a good way), but the realistic female friendship depicted in “Babes” is the heart and soul of the movie.

Directed by Pamela Adlon, “Babes” was written by llana Glazer and Josh Rabinowitz. “Babes” takes place in New York City (where the movie was filmed on location), from 2019 to 2020. The movie had its world premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film and TV Festival. It’s a movie that has frank and frequently vulgar talk about pregnancy, sex, childbirth, body parts and bodily functions. It also shows the nuances of female friendships when two friends are at different stages of emotional maturity and personal responsibilities

“Babes” (which is told in chronological order) begins with a scene taking place at a movie theater sometime around Thanksgiving in 2019. Two longtime best friends—neurotic Eden (played by Glazer) and sassy Dawn (played by Michelle Buteau)—have had a tradition for the past 27 years to see the same unnamed movie around Thanksgiving time. This particular movie happens to be playing in a theater, although in real life, there is no movie theater in New York City that has played the same movie during Thanksgiving from 1992 to 2019.

Eden (a self-employed yoga teacher who works from home) arrives at the theater feeling a little flustered because she had to travel 115 minutes and take four subway trains to meet Dawn (who is a dentist) at this theater in New York City’s Manhattan borough. That’s because Eden lives in Astoria (in New York City’s Queens borough), and Dawn lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Eden and Dawn used to live near each other in Astoria. Eden (who is a never-married bachelorette) is a little bitter that Dawn and her emotionally supportive husband Marty (played by Hasan Minhaj) have moved several miles away from Eden. Marty works for an unnamed business.

Dawn is pregnant with her second child and is due to give birth in two weeks. When Dawn and Eden go inside the screening room, Dawn notices that every seat she sits in is wet. And then, Dawn realizes that water is leaking from her vagina—or, as Dawn put it, she has “pussy drizzle.” Dawn begins to wonder if she’s in labor, so she asks Eden to see what her vagina looks like, right there in the nearly empty screening room. Eden confirms that Dawn’s vagina looks like it’s dilated, so Dawn calls her OB/GYN doctor, who says she’s probably in labor.

Instead of going to a hospital right away, Dawn and Eden decide to go to a restaurant and have an eating binge, since Dawn thinks she shouldn’t be eating this much after Dawn gives birth. At the restaurant, Eden looks at Dawn’s vagina again in public to check on the dilation size. When their waiter finds out that Dawn is in labor and starts to give unsolicited advice, Dawn snaps at him: “What are you? The Gordon Ramsay of my pussy?”

The trip to the hospital is chaotic. Dawn is in too much pain to walk, and she won’t sit down in a wheelchair, so she crawls to the delivery room. (It’s a very unrealistic scenario.) Eden and Marty are there in the delivery room, where Eden is nauseated by what she sees and is shocked to find out that someone can defecate while giving birth. You can easily predict how Eden will react to seeing an umbilical cord and placenta up close for the first time. If these types of scenes don’t sound like something you want to see in a comedy, then “Babes” is not the movie for you.

Dawn gives birth to a baby girl named Melanie and is on maternity leave. Dawn and Marty’s first child is 4-year-old Thomas, nicknamed Tommy (played by Caleb Mermelstein-Knox), who has some arrested development because he still wears diapers and still drinks from a baby bottle. During the course of the movie, Dawn stars to feel the pressure and stress of taking care of two children under the age of 5.

At the hospital where Dawn gave birth, Eden is shocked and annoyed that the hospital charged her nearly $500 for sushi that she ordered from hospital room service. Eden takes the sushi with her on the subway and starts to eat it inside the subway car. Sitting across from her is an actor named Claude (played by Stephan James), who is in a waiter uniform. She strikes up a conversation with Claude by offering to share some of her sushi with him. Claude tells her that he’s in costume because he’s an extra in a Martin Scorsese movie.

Eden and Claude have an immediate attraction to each other. They talk some more and find out that they share the same enthusiasm for the video game “Street Fighter,” so they go to her place to play “Street Fighter” together. Eden and Claude also reveal that they’ve never had unprotected sex with other partners. One thing leads to another, and Eden and Claude agree to have unprotected sex with each other. Eden tells Claude that she’s currently menstruating, but he doesn’t mind.

There are indications throughout the movie that although Eden is in her late 30s, she often still has the mindset of a child. For example, she thinks she can’t get pregnant while she’s menstruating. As already revealed in the “Babes” trailer, Eden does get pregnant. She decides to keep the child.

For reasons that are explained in the movie (but won’t be revealed in this review), Claude is unable to be in the child’s life. Dawn’s OB/GYN (obstetrics/gynecology) doctor Dr. Morris (played by John Carroll Lynch) becomes Eden’s OB/GYN doctor too. A running joke in the movie is how Dr. Morris handles his receding hairline and bald spots.

Eden is very emotionally co-dependent on Dawn and expects her friendship with Dawn to be the same as it was before they both became parents. It leads to the expected conflicts and arguments. There’s also a subplot about Dawn and Marty trying to rekindle their sex life, which has gone stagnant because they’re so exhausted from their jobs and taking care of their kids.

Glazer and Buteau are believable as best friends, but the some of the jokes they’re given in “Babes” fall very flat. Some viewers might be offended by a scene where Dawn is worried that her breasts are not producing milk to breastfeed her newborn child, and Dawn takes illegal drugs anyway. In this scene, Eden (who doesn’t know yet that she’s pregnant) and Dawn decide to take psychedelic mushrooms together.

It’s during this psychedelic experience, Dawn finds out that she is, in fact, lactating. The expected “breast squirting” scene ensues. During the hallucinations, Dawn’s breasts also talk to her. Whoopi Goldberg is the voice of Dawn’s breasts.

Nothing is shown or told about Dawn’s parents, but Eden’s widower father Bernie (played by Oliver Platt) is in a few scenes in the movie. (Eden’s mother died when Eden was 3 years old.) Bernie is described by Eden as someone who is a “hoarder” with mental health issues. Eden and Bernie are not close, but they don’t hate each other. Their best scene in the movie happens when Eden tells Bernie that she’s pregnant.

“Babes” has some rough spots where the movie drags, the dialogue is kind of stupid, and the comedic timing isn’t very good. However, the bright spots outshine the movie’s flaws. Viewers who don’t mind watching movies with a lot of explicit adult language might be charmed by how the friendship of Dawn and Eden authentically evolves. The ending of “Babes” is undeniably sappy, but it puts a sweet finishing touch on a comedy that is often very salty and deliberately distasteful.

Neon will release “Babes” in select U.S. cinemas on May 17, 2024, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on May 24, 2024. A sneak preview of the movie was held in U.S. cinemas on May 13, 2024.

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