Babyfever: Henry Jaglom’s Pandering Tribute to Women

Aiming to provide an intimate look at women’s feelings and thoughts about motherhood, Henry Jaglom’s Babyfever is an outdated film that is only intermittently entertaining.

Regrettably, the stylistic blend of a fictional story, which is actually based on Jaglom’s own experience, and a documentary, using interviews with many women, results in an overly long and fractured picture. Prime target audience for this film is possibly suggested by its subtitle, “For those who hear their clock ticking.”

After a series of personal films (Always, New Year’s Day, Venice/Venice) that were not particularly illuminating or interesting, writer-director Jaglom seems to be in a feminist phase of his career. His new film Babyfever is to women and their biological clocks what his l991 Eating was to women and their relationship to food.

Victoria Foyt (Jaglom’s wife) stars as Gena, an attractive middle-aged career woman, who can’t make up her mind whether she wants to have a baby with James (Matt Salinger), her sensitive b.f. who likes to talk about building a nest and meshing their yuppie careers. Just when Foyt is about to make a commitment, Anthony (Eric Roberts), her old flame, reappears with a new proposition that confuses her even more. Some suspense is added to the story, when Foyt suspects she might be pregnant and anxiously awaits the results from her doctor.

Following exactly the same structure and format that Eating had, Babyfever consists of interviews with a diverse group of women, all in their 30s and 40s, who talk to the camera about babies, men, sex, motherhood, and careers. If in Eating the central event was a birthday party, here it’s a baby shower, which provides an occasion for all kinds of biological and psychological sermons. While Babyfever is more focused, its anecdotal narrative is not as rich as that of Eating, where food served as both a metaphor and substitute for love and sex.

It’s too bad that lovely actresses like Frances Fisher (Unforgiven) are made to ask–in straight face–questions about pregnancy and artificial insemination. Pandering to women, the three male characters, that often just interrupt the tale, are conceived as stereotypes. And it doesn’t help that they are played by Eric Roberts, Matt Salinger, and Zack Norman, who manage to accentuate the narrow definition of their roles.

The most disappointing element about Babyfever is how conventional and humorless the material is. The film rehashes ideas that appeared in “New York” and other magazines in the late l980s. Also dissatisfying is the stereotypical casting: for example, an aging, unattractive woman talks about how she has reconciled to being single for the rest of her life. At the same time, the film will please any affirmative action committee, as it carefully uses women of every ethnic minority and sexual orientation.

Dedicated to Jaglom’s young daughter, Babyfever obviously bears strong personal meaning for Jaglom and Foyt, but as a social issue film it’s not very engaging.