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.

Review: ‘No Hard Feelings’ (2023), starring Jennifer Lawrence

June 17, 2023

by Carla Hay

Jennifer Lawrence and Andrew Barth Feldman in “No Hard Feelings” (Photo by Macall Polay/Columbia Pictures)

“No Hard Feelings” (2023)

Directed by Gene Stupnitsky

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York state’s Montauk, Long Island, the comedy film “No Hard Feelings” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Latinos and Asians and one Native American) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A 32-year-old Uber driver/restaurant worker is in danger of losing her house due to unpaid tax bills, so she desperately agrees to be paid to take the virginity of a lonely and socially awkward 19-year-old man, who comes from a wealthy family. 

Culture Audience: “No Hard Feelings” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching cringeworthy sex comedies that have very outdated comedy gimmicks involving older women and younger men.

Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti in “No Hard Feelings” (Photo by Macall Polay/Columbia Pictures)

“No Hard Feelings” is a cringeworthy sex comedy in all the wrong ways. It has few laugh-out-loud moments and mostly recycles crude clichés from 1980s comedies about nerds losing their virginities. Jennifer Lawrence’s full-frontal nude scene reeks of desperation. It’s obvious that Lawrence wants to toss aside her “prestige actress” image for her starring role in “No Hard Feelings” (she’s also one of the producers of this train wreck), but there’s something kind of pathetic about how hard she’s trying to be “edgy,” when this outdated movie is as edgy as a used condom from 1984.

Directed by Gene Stupnitsky (who co-wrote the “No Hard Feelings” screenplay with John Phillips), “No Hard Feelings” has a very “male gaze” to it because it’s a sex comedy where the only full-frontal nudity is from the female gender. Even though there are men in sex scenes too, these men are never shown fully naked in the movie. (Lawrence’s full-frontal nude scene isn’t a sex scene, but it’s a scene that’s meant to be provocative.) It all looks like wish-fulfillment fantasies from sexist filmmakers who want to see women fully naked in their movies but not men fully naked in the same movies.

Everything about this dreck looks like it was written and directed by people who think female empowerment should mean being an obnoxious sex worker who doesn’t want to admit to being a sex worker. Let’s call it what it is: “No Hard Feelings” is about sex work, prostitution, or whatever term you want to use for anyone who has sex in exchange for cash or something of monetary value.

“No Hard Feelings” is being marketed on the concept that a 32-year-old woman named Maddie Barker (played by Lawrence) is desperate for money. And so, she answers an ad placed by two wealthy parents, who are offering a Buick to a young woman who can take the virginity of their reclusive 19-year-old son. The domineering parents have such control over their son’s life, they’ve put a GPS tracker on his phone.

Maddie is a lifelong resident of the beach hamlet Montauk, Long Island, in New York state. It’s an area where many affluent residents of New York City have homes that they often go to for the summer. The year-long residents of Montauk are usually working-class people who are in service jobs where they have to interact with upper-middle-class and wealthy people who are Montauk’s part-time residents. Maddie has a major attitude problem about not being as educated or wealthy as these part-time Montauk residents who can afford to have more than one home.

Later, it’s explained why she has this prejudice: Her biological father is rich, married and a New York City resident who has another home in Montauk. He had an affair with Maddie’s mother, who is now deceased. Maddie was the result of this extramarital affair, and she was raised by her single mother. Her biological father is still alive, he has another family with his wife, and he wants nothing to do with Maddie.

Maddie has two part-time jobs: one as an Uber driver and the other as a restaurant employee at a casual eatery named Charters. She lives in the house that she inherited from her mother. The house was paid for by Maddie’s biological father. Maddie has gotten behind on her real-estate taxes, so there’s a lien on her house, which she’s in danger of losing soon if she doesn’t come up with the money to pay the taxes.

Adding to her financial woes, Maddie hasn’t been making her car payments either. The movie’s opening scene (which is partially shown in the movie’s trailer) has her car being repossessed by a tow-truck driver named Gary (played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach), a sad sack who happens to be Maddie’s most recent ex-boyfriend. Maddie dumped Gary by abruptly cutting off communication with him, and he’s very hurt about it.

Maddie tries to flirt with and charm Gary so he won’t repossess her car. She leads him to believe that she might be interested in getting back together with him. This deception might have worked if Maddie’s latest fling (played by Christian Galvis), a hunky Italian guy, hadn’t come out of the house and made it clear that Maddie has definitely moved on from Gary. None of this is spoiler information, since it’s in the “No Hard Feelings” trailer.

Maddie no longer has the car that she needs to work as an Uber driver. There’s some not-very-amusing scenes of Maddie using roller blades as a means of transportation. It’s just an excuse for the movie to show some slapstick comedy of Maddie trying not to fall down when she goes to certain places on these roller blades. She also tries and fails to steal back her car from Gary—while she’s on roller blades. It all looks so corny and fake.

A frustrated Maddie soon sees an unusual ad that she thinks will be the solution to her financial problems: Two wealthy parents named Laird Becker (played by Matthew Broderick) and Allison Becker (played by Laura Benanti) are looking for a woman in her early-to-mid-20s to “date” their virginal 19-year-old son Percy Becker (played by Andrew Barth Feldman), in exchange for the woman getting a brand new Buick. The parents are worried because Percy is a socially awkward loner, and they want him to be more socially experienced before he enrolls in Princeton University as a freshman student.

This flimsy premise has so many problems. First, losing one’s virginity does not automatically give someone social skills. Second, it would have been a lot easier for Maddie to find a job that pays fast cash instead of going to the trouble of finding another car and then having to wait to get Uber customer requests for low-paying rides. Anyone who knows anything about Uber drivers (and all the non-union employee issues that Uber drivers have) knows that people do not get loads of money from being an Uber driver. Uber drivers also have to pay for their own car expenses, thereby reducing any wages they make as an Uber driver.

Third, who really believes that someone can pay off tax debts large enough for a house lien by being an Uber driver for a few weeks? “No Hard Feelings” expects viewers to believe this nonsense. And let’s not forget that the area where Maddie lives (the New York City metropolitan area) has among of the highest costs of living in the United States. Fourth, although Maddie sneers a few times about how “stupid” Percy is because he’s sheltered and lacking in street smarts, Maddie isn’t very intelligent herself. She wastes a lot of time hoping to get a Buick out of this “dating deal,” when she could’ve spent the time making real money.

But the witless plot of “No Hard Feelings” wouldn’t exist if it actually treated the female protagonist with some respect and had some unique cleverness. Instead, what viewers will see is a lot of Maddie acting entitled and combative to almost everyone she meets, but the filmmakers are trying to make this awfulness look like “female empowerment.” No one is expecting Maddie to be completely likeable, but there’s not much reason for viewers to root for this idiotic character.

And there’s more of Maddie’s stupidity on display. Maddie answers the ad by meeting Laird and Allison in person. Maddie arrives at the Becker house on roller blades. Laird and Allison ask Maddie to come up the high outdoor stairs into the house. Instead of taking off her roller blades, which is what any sensible person would do, Maddie clumsily tries to move up the stairs while on roller blades. It’s a sight gag that’s very stale.

In the meeting with these two creepy parents, it’s made clear that they expect Maddie to take Percy’s virginity, in order for her to get paid by getting the Buick. Maddie agrees to the parents’ demand to keep this deal a secret from Percy. This is sex work, but Maddie denies it by saying to the parents: “I’m not a sex worker.” Yes, Maddie, you are a sex worker, even if it’s just for a one-time deal. Admit it, own it, and move on.

Maddie tells the parents her real age, but she’s able to convince them that she’s a better candidate for the job than women in their early-to-mid-20s, whom Maddie thinks are too emotionally immature. It’s ironic, because Maddie is by far the most emotionally immature person in the movie. Percy is sheltered but he has a much better sense of respect for himself and other people than Maddie has.

And therein lies much of the problem with “No Hard Feelings”: It tries very hard to make Maddie look like a “free spirit” (she’s actually very mean-spirited) who wants to be perceived as a “liberated woman,” but the entire movie is about her actually being at the financial mercy of two wealthy manipulators who have hired her to be a sex worker. Maddie wants to be “tough” (she gets into physical fights with people), but she doesn’t want to be labeled a “sex worker,” because in her mind, being a sex worker makes her a bad person.

This is the mentality of filmmakers who have a madonna/whore complex in how women are portrayed in their movies: The women are either “virtuous” (not shown having sex in the movie) or “sinful” (shown having sex in the movie), with no realistic in-between. It’s a very backwards and misogynistic mindset often found in teenage sex comedies of the 1980s, where the geeky guys are the sympathetic heroes, and the (usually older) women they want to have sex with are hot-tempered and horny seductresses.

The Maddie character is the embodiment of this very tired and over-used stereotype. Expect to hear repetitive and not-very-funny jokes about the age gap between Maddie and Percy. Maddie is constantly mortified that, at 32 years old, she is often perceived as “old” by Percy’s peers. How about this, Maddie? Instead of worrying about being considered “old,” you should be worrying that your life has come down to having sex for a Buick. And let’s not forget that this Buick is not a guarantee that it will help Maddie make enough Uber money to pay off her tax debts.

Of course, “No Hard Feelings” throws in the “abandoned child” storyline to make Maddie look like she needs to be pitied. But make no mistake: “No Hard Feelings” is all about making Percy the real hero of the story. He is the only one who’s presented as having a pure heart. He is lied to and unfairly manipulated by a greedy egomaniac and two very twisted parents, who are let off the hook way too easily in this stagnant and putrid film.

The supporting characters in “No Hard Feelings” are mostly sounding boards for Maddie’s insecurities. Her only two friends are a couple of co-workers at Charters: Jim (played by Scott MacArthur) and his pregnant wife Sara (played by Natalie Morales) are having their own financial problems because they can’t afford their own place and are living with Jim’s parents. Jim and Sara know about Maddie’s “sex for a Buick” deal.

The so-called jokes in “No Hard Feelings” mostly fall flat. Early on in the movie, Maddie mentions that she’s gotten offers to sell her house to wealthy New York City residents, but she doesn’t want to sell her house to them because she’s biased against these types of people. Hasan Minhaj has a quick cameo as a smarmy real-estate agent named Doug Kahn, a former classmate of Maddie’s. The movie’s “joke” about Doug is that when he was an underage teen, he had a sex scandal with a teacher that was similar to the real-life scandal of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau.

After Maddie gets arrested for trying to steal back her repossessed car, she whines to her unnamed lawyer (played by Zahn McClarnon), who happens to be Native American, that she doesn’t want to give up her home to the people who want to take over her land. “Do you have any idea what that feels like?” she asks.

And then, she catches herself when she remembers she’s talking to a Native American, whose people experienced genocide and land stealing from white colonizers. “Of course, you do,” Maddie adds hastily. This lawyer is seen briefly again in one other inconsequential scene, which means he was only in the movie to be a setup for a joke about his Native American heritage.

Percy’s former nanny Jody (played by Kyle Mooney) is a supporting character who is shown briefly in the movie for no other reason but to be the target of homophobic-tinged jokes about gay men. Even though Jody is no longer Percy’s nanny, he’s still very concerned about Percy’s well-being. Because Maddie is relentlessly crass and rude, she has to make a snide comment implying that Jody, as a male nanny, might be involved in pedophilia and might be sexually attracted to Percy.

Percy is an aspiring musician, who spends a lot of time alone practicing on his electronic keyboards and playing video games. He also volunteers at an animal shelter, where Maddie goes to meet an unsuspecting Percy, under the ruse of wanting to adopt a dog. There’s a dour manager at the animal shelter named Crispin (played by Jordan Mendoza), who has some mildly amusing scenes, but Crispin is one of many supporting characters in “No Hard Feelings” that have no depth.

Lawrence has skilled comedic timing in many of her scenes. The problem is that her dialogue and the movie’s scenarios are so horrible or formulaic, it doesn’t matter how good her acting is in the movie (and her acting isn’t that great), it’s all cancelled out by this barrage of mind-numbing and often dull comedy. There’s a really good scene where Maddie and Percy have dinner together at a restaurant, and she pressures him to spontaneously start playing a piano that’s in the room. But that type of scene is few and far in between in this tacky and unimaginative movie that is ultimately a big step down and a total embarrassment for Oscar winner Lawrence.

Columbia Pictures will release “No Hard Feelings” in U.S. cinemas on June 23, 2023. A sneak preview of the movie was held in select U.S. cinemas on June 17, 2023.

Review: ‘Dads,’ starring Ron Howard, Will Smith, Conan O’Brien, Ken Jeong, Jimmy Fallon, Neil Patrick Harris and Jimmy Kimmel

June 20, 2020

by Carla Hay

Bryce Dallas Howard and her father Ron Howard in “Dads” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

“Dads” 

Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard

Culture Representation: The documentary “Dads” has a racially diverse group of people (white, black, Asian and Latino) representing the middle-class and wealthy and talking about fatherhood.

Culture Clash: Some of the fathers interviewed in the film talk about defying traditional masculine stereotypes, by being more involved in raising their children than previous generations of fathers were expected to be.

Culture Audience: “Dads” will appeal to anyone who likes nonfiction films about parenting issues, even though it shuts out any perspectives of fathers who are poor or have negative attitudes about being fathers.

Robert Selby (pictured at right) and his son RJ in “Dads” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

The documentary “Dads” puts such an unrelenting positive and happy spin on fatherhood that it has a strange dichotomy of being a nonfiction film that isn’t entirely realistic. Bryce Dallas Howard (the eldest child of Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard) makes her feature-film directorial debut with “Dads,” which devotes considerable screen time to members of the Howard family talking about fatherhood. “Dads” is ultimately a very uplifting “feel good” movie, but it doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or reveal any new concepts of fatherhood.

There are no deadbeat dads or bitter fathers who’ve lost child custody in “Dads.” Instead, the documentary focuses only on fathers who love being dads and have good relationships with their children. There are several celebrities interviewed in the film (all of whom have a background in comedy), such as Judd Apatow, Jimmy Fallon, Neil Patrick Harris, Ron Howard, Ken Jeong, Jimmy Kimmel, Hasan Minhaj, Conan O’Brien, Patton Oswalt and Will Smith.

“Dads” has three kinds of footage: soundbites from the celebrities, with Bryce Dallas Howard as the interviewer (she sometimes appears on camera); clips of home movies (the clips from random, unidentified people give the documentary an “America’s Funniest Home Videos” look); and six in-depth profiles of seven middle-class fathers from different parts of the world.

Although the celebrities offer some amusing anecdotes, many of their stories seem rehearsed or their comments are made just to crack a joke. Smith, in particular, seems to have memorized way in advance what he was going to say in this documentary. With the exception of Ron Howard, the celebrities are not shown with their children in this documentary, which is why the celebrity segments in the film are pretty superficial. The best parts of the documentary are with the people who aren’t rich and famous, because that’s the footage that actually shows “regular” fathers (who don’t have nannies) taking care of the kids.

The seven non-famous fathers who are profiled in the movie are:

  • Glen Henry (in San Diego), an African American who became a “daddy vlogger” to document his experiences as a stay-at-home dad.
  • Reed Howard (in Westchester, New York), who is Bryce Dallas Howard’s youngest sibling and was a first-time expectant father at the time the documentary was filmed.
  • Robert Selby (in Triangle, Virginia), an African American whose son survived a life-or-death medical crisis.
  • Thiago Queiroz (in Rio de Janeiro), a Brazilian who started a podcast and blog about fatherhood and who advocates for longer time for paternity leaves.
  • Shuichi Sakuma (in Tokyo), who is a Japanese homemaker.
  • Rob Scheer and Reece Scheer (in Darnestown, Maryland), a white gay couple who adopted four African American kids.

Glen Henry used to work as a sales clerk at men’s clothing store, but he was so unhappy in his job that his wife Yvette suggested that he quit his job and become a stay-at-home father. (At the time “Dads” was filmed, the Henrys had two sons and a daughter.) Glen Henry, who has a blog called Beleaf in Fatherhood, began making videos documenting his fatherhood experiences.

Glen admits that he thought at first that it would be easy to take care of the kids by himself, but he found out that he was very wrong about that. “I felt like an imposter,” he says of his early years as a homemaker. Even though his wife Yvette says she wasn’t thrilled about Glen putting their family’s life on display for everyone to see on the Internet, she says it’s worth it because Glen is a much happier person as a stay-at-home dad.

Echoing what many of the fathers say in the documentary, Glen Henry comments: “The role of father has shifted in a major way. We went from providing, being there for holidays and disciplining to being all the way involved—and you kind of look like a dork if you’re not.”

He continues, “I feel like being a father made me the man that I am. My children taught me to be authentic and honest with myself. Fatherhood has given me a whole new identity.”

Reed Howard, who was expecting his first child with his wife when this documentary was being filmed, talks about the home videos that his father Ron filmed of all of his children being born. (Clips of some of those videos are included in the documentary.) Reeds says half-jokingly that since all of Ron’s kids were forced to watch the videos, it was “traumatic” to see part of his mother’s body that he never wanted to see.

Ron Howard’s father Rance (who died in 2017) is also interviewed in “Dads.” Rance says that when Ron was a co-star on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Rance suggested to Andy Griffith to not have Ron’s character Opie written as a brat. Griffith took the advice, and the father-son relationship on the show was modeled after the relationship that Rance had with Ron in real life. (Rance Howard and Ron Howard are the only grandfathers interviewed in the movie, by the way.)

Most of the dads interviewed in the documentary get emotional and teary-eyed at some point in the film. Ron Howard’s crying moment comes when he says that his greatest fear as a father was that he wouldn’t be as good as his father was to him. Reed (who is Ron’s only son) expresses the same fear about not being able to live up to the great experiences that he had with Ron as his father.

Selby has perhaps the most compelling story, since his son RJ was born with a congenital heart defect. Selby describes years of stressful hospital visits and medical treatments in order to help RJ live as healthy of a life as possible. This dedicated dad had to make many sacrifices, such as taking unpaid time off from work and forgo paying some bills in order to pay for RJ’s medical expenses. “There was no doubt in mind: I would forever be his protector,” Selby says of his outlook on being RJ’s father.

Selby is also the only father interviewed in the film who isn’t financially privileged, since he says that he often didn’t have a car during his son’s ongoing medical crisis. And when he did have a car, it was repossessed  multiple times because he couldn’t make the payments. He ended up working a night shift because it was the only way he could have a job (he doesn’t mention what he does for a living) while also going to school and taking care of RJ during the day.

Chantay Williams (who is RJ’s mother) and Selby were never married and didn’t have a serious relationship when she got pregnant with RJ. Selby breaks down and cries when he remembers that when he found out about the pregnancy, he didn’t want Williams to have the child and he didn’t talk to her for two months. But he changed his mind, asked for her forgiveness, and is now a very involved father.

However, Selby says that he still feels shame over his initial reaction to the pregnancy, and he comments that he’ll probably spend the rest of his life trying to make up for that mistake. Williams says in the documentary that Selby is proof that someone can change, and that he’s truly a devoted father and that his devotion isn’t just a show for the documentary cameras.

Quieroz (a married father of two sons and a daughter) knows what it’s like to not have a father raise him, since his dad wasn’t in his life for most of his childhood. He says that it’s one of the reasons why he vowed to always be there for his kids. Quieroz’s day job is as a mechanical engineer, but he also started a fatherhood podcast with two other Brazilian fathers, and he has a fatherhood blog. It’s through the blog that Quieroz’s estranged father got in touch with him. The outcome of that contact is revealed in the documentary.

Sakuma talks about how, in Japanese culture, men who don’t work outside the home are considered “society dropouts.” When he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder 20 years ago, Sakuma could no longer work outside the home. He became so depressed that he contemplated divorce and suicide, until his wife begged him: “Please continue living for me.”

After Sakuma regained his health, one of the first things he wanted to do was become a parent, but his wife didn’t want to have kids. He says in the documentary that he began a personal campaign that lasted two years to get his wife to change her mind. She changed her mind when he told her that men can do anything when it comes to raising a child, except for pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. He convinced her that he would make a great stay-at-home dad, which he is to their son.

Rob and Reece Scheer didn’t expect to become parents to four kids in a short period of time (less than a year), but that’s what happened when they fostered four children, whom they eventually ended up adopting. Rob and Reece have three sons and one daughter; two of the sons are biological brothers. Rob (the older husband) says he knew that he wanted to be a father since he was 6 years old. Rob describes how he grew up with an abusive father, but that traumatic experience helped him know that he wanted to be the opposite of abusive when he became a dad.

The four kids adopted by Reece and Rob also come from troubled backgrounds, so Rob believes surviving his own abusive childhood helps him relate to his kids in that way. As for Reece, he was working two jobs when he decided quit those jobs to be the couple’s stay-at-home partner. They had to make the sacrifice of having a lower household income, but now the family lives happily on a farm, which the dads say has been beneficial for the emotional well-being of their kids.

Rob Scheer says that sometimes people say unintentionally ignorant things  about gay couples who are parents. “People ask, ‘Who’s the mom and who’s the dad?’ We’re both dads, but the one thing that we do is that we both partner. That’s what parents should be doing.”

One of the questions that Bryce Dallas Howard asks the celebrities is to define what a father is in one word. Fallon says “hero,” while Minhaj says “compass.” Many of the celebrity fathers in the documentary make obvious comments that are similar to each other, such as: “There’s no instruction manual/rulebook to being a father.”

And although Kimmel and Jeong briefly mention the medical scares they went through with their children (a heart defect for one of Kimmel’s sons, a premature birth for one of Jeong’s children), the documentary doesn’t show them opening up about these issues in a meaningful way. Instead, most of the celebrity soundbites are meant to elicit laughs. Several of the celebrities make references to their busy careers when they talk about how their work keeps them from spending more time with their kids, but they know that they’re working hard to provide very well for their children.

Although the non-famous fathers who are profiled  in “Dads” seem to be a diverse group because they’re from different countries and racial groups, they actually have more in common with each other than not, because they’re all middle-class fathers with children who were under the age of 13 at the time this documentary was filmed. It seems like these fathers were selected because they have young children who are in the “cute” stages of life—no kids who are teenagers or adults—thereby creating more documentary footage that was likely to be “adorable.”

Apatow and Smith are the only fathers who talk about how fatherhood became less fun for them when their children became teenagers. They mention that they had to learn to give their teenage kids space, adjust to their kids’ growing independence, and allow them to make their own decisions on issues, even if those decisions turned out to be mistakes. But since the documentary doesn’t do any up-close profiles of non-famous fathers who have teenagers, the only commentaries about raising teenagers come from rich and famous guys, and it’s questionable how relatable these celebrity dads are to the rest of the public.

For example, Smith has said in other interviews (not in this documentary) that he and his wife Jada don’t believe that their kids should be punished in their household when they do something wrong, their kids never had to do household chores, and he and Jada allowed their kids to drop out of school when the kids didn’t feel like going anymore. Apatow admits in the documentary that he’s also a permissive dad who never really punished his kids if they did something wrong. Is it any wonder that many celebrities are perceived as raising spoiled kids who are out of touch with the real world?

One of the other shortcomings of “Dads” is that, except for Selby, the documentary completely ignores major financial strains that parenthood can cause. It’s as if the documentary wants to forget that financially poor fathers exist in this world too. And even though Minhaj is the only one in “Dads” to mention the immigrant experience, “Dads” could have used more fatherhood stories from an immigrant perspective.

However, if you want a heartwarming look at famous and non-famous dads who say that parenthood is the best thing that ever happened to them, “Dads” fulfills all those expectations. This documentary is more like a series of love letters instead of a thorough and inclusive investigation.

Apple TV+ premiered “Dads” on June 19, 2020.

2019 CFDA Fashion Awards: Jennifer Lopez, Brandon Maxwell, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen among the winners

June 4, 2019

Jennifer Lopez at the 36th annual CFDA Fashion Awards at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City on June 3, 2019. (Photo courtesy of BFA)

The following is a press release from Council of Fashion Designers of America:

 

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