I must admit, when an email pops up in my inbox these days from an indie director asking me to review his film, I instinctively cringe. The current craze appears to be coming-of-age: the story of troubled youths—often a gaggle of them—fighting through hardships and coming out okayor, if the filmmaker’s feeling frisky, winding up right back where they started. Many of these pictures are set in my hometown, New York City, a place that lends itself to adverse situations quite nicely. The mediocre Cross Bronx (seen at the Las Vegas Film Festival) had its moments, but was predominantly clichéd, and several other recent films were unbearable in their recycled treatment of the genre. How refreshing, then, that Baby Fat, a low-budget indie shot in Manhattan, takes a different approach. Instead of attempting to evoke serious emotion, it goes the comedic route, and it’s extremely entertaining as a result. Focusing on a young Italian couple from Staten Island, Baby Fat is the story of a high-maintenance, beautiful young wife (Gina, played by the lovely Martene Fallacaro) who’s desperate to have a child, but petrified of the weight-gain that tends to accompany child-bearing. The solution? Clearly for her husband Joey to impregnate another woman and have her act as surrogate mother. That way, Gina can become a mommy without any of those blasted side-effects of carrying a baby in her womb. To do so, they just hold open calls for actresses, who must fit certain requirements, such as being less attractive and having smaller tits than Gina (she can’t trust Joey with someone who rivals her!). It’s so simple, really! Why don’t more families think of it?
Of course, the entire premise of Baby Fat is absurd (though I’m sure there are a few drama queens out there who’ve considered the scenario), but it’s so comfortable with its tone that it’s never a problem. Oh, there are some themes of a serious nature—overbearing family and its impact on the children’s upbringing, superficiality and the extremes it can lead one to, the desperation of those trying to make it in today’s entertainment industry, particularly as an actor or actress—but they’re all secondary to the humor, and the enjoyment of seeing a shallow Italian jock (played by screenwriter Joshua Nelson , who so kindly sent me a screener) whipped into submission by his whiny and hypocritical—but gorgeous!—wife. That all this takes place in the basement of Joey’s parents’ home only adds to the laughter—all this melodrama and they’re not even independent! The dialogue has some very snappy lines, the acting is fairly strong, and while a few characters are a bit too pat—particularly Uncle Bobby—Baby Fat is a tasty addition to the genre and it slides down the palate easily. Whether distribution will follow remains to be seen—so many pictures of the kind are being made these days, as mentioned earlier, that it’s a real uphill battle—but if any of the ones I’ve scoped so far deserve a theatrical release, it’s this one. The film may not be exceptional cinema, but it understands how to avoid the pitfalls that generally plague the genre. These days, that’s worth quite a bit.