“It’s movies like this that perpetuate the idea that women can’t have career and a family,” my friend whispered to me after the opening credits of Baby Mama, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. At this point, I must mention that my friend, like me, attends an all-women’s college, a fact that might make us, if not feminist, at least a little bit women’s lib sensitive.
While I sympathize with her position, however, I can’t agree with her theory. You could, in fact, argue the opposite: that the movie perpetuates the idea that, even if a woman has a successful and fulfilling career she still needs a husband and a baby to feel complete (trust me, we Mount Holyoke women can argue just about anything). Ultimately, however, both hypotheses would probably be a bit of a reach. This is, after all, a comedic tale about the relationship between Kate (Fey), a high-strung career woman desperate for a baby, and Angie (Poehler), the rough-around-the edges surrogate carrying her child.
When Angie’s husband – “common-law,” as he informs us at the beginning of the film – cheats on her after the in-vitro, she shows up on Kate’s doorstep looking for a place to stay. The two have issues from the start, battling it out over everything from what Angie’s eating (Ho-Ho’s and Red Bull) to what she’s watching on TV (America’s Funniest Home Videos).
The two characters may seem a bit familiar to fans of Fey and Poehler’s work on Saturday Night Live. Kate, though somewhat stiff, is an awful lot like Fey’s usual "Weekend Update" persona, and Poehler’s Angie is just a tad reminiscent of her one-legged, flatulent, SNL character, Amber (especially when she pees in Kate’s sink because she can’t work the baby-proofed toilet). But instead of seeming recycled, these roles simply feel natural. Both women are adept at delivering one-liners, and the two play off of each other nicely. This is, after all, what we watch them for.
The film doesn’t want for a good supporting cast either. From Sigourney Weaver’s Chaffee Bicknell, the fifty-something-year-old surrogacy agent who can’t stop popping out babies, to Steve Martin’s role as the hippie-turned-entrepreneur boss who rewards Kate for her good work with “five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact,” Baby Mama has no throw away roles. The rock solid cast combined with the contrast between Fey’s witty dialogue and Poehler’s charmingly lowbrow humor makes this film enjoyable no matter what kind of feminist ideals you bring to the table.