Review: ‘Babes’

Ilana Glazer Writes And Stars In Neon's Sightly Stale Motherhood Comedy

For many elder millennial women, Broad City was the comedy that defined their 20s. The Comedy Central show was wrought with brazen and unapologetic humor that poked fun and amplified the messy and unglamorous lives of two twenty-somethings. Characters Ilana and Abbi (played by creators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson) talked about their periods, their body sweat, dealing with New City’s underbelly, not making rent, and of course their sex lives. Glazer’s newest film, Babes, feels like an extension of that show, held down by some of the same tropes though lifted through female friendship.

Eden (Glazer) and Dawn (Michelle Buteau) are two best friends in two very different places in life. The former is a single, yoga teacher while the latter is a married dentist with one kid and another on the way. Literally. The film opens with the women attending their annual Thanksgiving morning movie when Dawn’s water breaks. 

As she settles into being a parent of two with her husband Marty (Hasan Minhaj), Eden struggles with the natural distance between them which only grows as she becomes pregnant from a one-night-stand, whom she caught feelings for. Through her pregnancy, Eden struggles to connect with Dawn, who is barely managing her personal life. The chasm between them grows often with hilarious results. 

You’d think that by co-writing the script with Josh Rabinowitz, Glazer would recognize that her character is just an older version of her Broad City one. A little less of a mess, she’s just as brazen and self-absorbed except it’s not as flattering in your late 30s. Buteau’s comedic timing and likability save their dynamic from going stale. 

Tonally, director Pamela Adlon is clearly going for a Judd Apatow-like comedy, with enough heart to carry the audience into its funny moments. At times, the pacing and emotional arcs stop for the sake of a comedic moment. It feels like Adlon keeps hitting the breaks, despite being able to blend humor with tragedy on her revered sitcom Better Things. Babes is laugh-out-loud funny in parts but it doesn’t work tonally with two characters so at odds with one another for most of the film. 

The supporting cast is wonderful though. The always great Oliver Platt shows up as Eden’s emotionally unavailable deadbeat dad while John Carroll Lynch is hilariously endearing as a balding OB/GYN. Stephan James shows up as Eden’s love interest whose fate doesn’t necessarily work with the film’s tone. 

Earlier this year, Lionsgate released Scrambled about a woman’s comedic journey to harvest her eggs. While both films can exist, it feels like Glazer’s past comedic endeavors haunt Babes rather than help it. Good thing there’s a laugh or two in there to keep you watching.

Cortland Jacoby
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
review-babesWhile funny, the film's tone stops and starts in service of the plot.