Danny Pudi as Jeff Penaras
Emily C. Chang as Sarah Penaras
Eddie Alfano as Don Small
Maiara Walsh as Taylor Small
Brian Thomas Smith as Dr. Palmer
Mark Feuerstein as Dr. Cooper, MFT
Written and Directed by Sam Friedlander
Choosing to bring a child into this world and raising them can be one of the most complicated and rewarding things one goes through in life and the idea of parenting has been a subject tackled in a variety of ways on film and television over the years, but Sam Friedlander’s Babysplitters has brought one of the most unique, hilarious and moving takes on modern parenting in a long while.
Two couples, Jeff and Sarah Penaras and Don and Taylor Small, have found themselves at odd crossroads in their lives as Don and Sarah find themselves ready to have kids with their biological clocks running and being at a steady point in their life while Jeff and Taylor have mixed feelings about being ready. During a night of drinking the four devise a seemingly fool-proof plan to share one baby, but as rules become broken and complications arise, the perfect compromise begins to fall apart.
Figuring out when one is ready to have kids is never an easy decision, between the financial stability one will need to care for them and the emotional and time commitment that comes from being a full-time caretaker for a newborn, and the film does a good job of presenting all of these in the most authentic and realistic way that a comedy could. Sure Jeff may crack wise when it comes to the subject, but rather than feel like a deliberate attempt at making audiences laugh it feels true to the character of trying to break the tension and even try and change the subject.
The arguments between the characters prior to following through with their plan all feel very authentic and unique, debating on everything from the rules of their plan to how they live their lives, while also helping bring out much of the funniest moments in the film. The chemistry between Danny Pudi, Emily C. Chang, Eddie Alfano and Maiara Walsh is truly wonderful to watch, as their performances together not only help further connect audiences to their individual characters, but also help cement their being couples in viewers minds, especially the former two.
Chang has been seen in everything from comedy to drama to soap opera but with her performance as Sarah she proves that the former is where she thrives, namely in the multiple sequences in which we see her at her job as a parking enforcement officer. Though some of the dialogue in these scenes feels a bit on the nose and familiar, namely in the single mother Sarah frequently tickets, but it’s Chang’s delivery and facial emotions that make them hysterical and stand out from similar moments in other films.
Once the plan is put into motion and things begin spiraling out of control, some of the story may begin to become predictable but Friedlander finds a way to still deliver the hilarity mixed in with some heart-wrenching gut punches that are truly effective. Pregnancy is not a smooth process for the mental or emotional health of those involved and the film isn’t afraid to dive into some of the more darker places it can lead to, and while it would’ve been nice to see these areas expounded upon in a more meaningful fashion, especially given there’s a therapist character, it still feels like a fresh and honest exploration of them.
While most of the film is directed pretty flatly, many scenes feeling like they were shot with cameras left on tripods rather than something a little more intimate, there are flashes of inspiration and style that prove Friedlander could become a talent to watch behind the camera in the future. One key example is seen when Jeff must navigate his way through a children’s birthday party in the backyard complete with crying kids, aggressive ten-year-olds and pools filled with what may be more than water. In a hilarious styling, Friedlander shoots it very similar to that of an action sequence in a war film and it rings true for what such a situation feels like and shows off a really impressive eye from the writer/director that would’ve been nice to see more of for the whole film rather than its more conventional angling and color palettes.
Though there may be inklings of predictability and a bland look to the film, Babysplitters proves to be one of the most fresh, hilarious and unique takes on modern parenting that is further elevated by its wonderful cast, namely Pudi and Chang.