Freddy (Sebastian Silva) and his boyfriend Mo (Tunde Adebimpe) embark on the tough journey of creating life in an unconventional way with the help of Polly (Kristen Wiig) as their egg donor. Together, this trio must face the long road of parenthood that lay ahead in Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Silva’s (Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus) off-kilter film Nasty Baby, where he takes up writing, directing, and starring role.
In reality, Freddy and Mo are hardly the ideal portrait of responsible parenting. Neither appears ready, as both are a bit immature, and the couple’s inclination to parenthood appears as an choice of indifference – their young bohemian lifestyle doesn’t exactly reflect parental readiness. When it becomes clear that Freddy’s sperm isn’t viable to inseminate Polly, Mo begins to wonder if he really wants a child after all, triggering a muddy bog of vignettes that amount to very little.
Freddy could use some parenting himself as he goes off on rants like a temperamental teenager rather than an adult. His behavior gets him into trouble and becomes a factor by the film’s end. A performance artist by trade, his new project is the appropriately titled ‘Nasty Baby,’ an annoying and sophomoric video where he wails like a baby. That he’s able to convince his boyfriend Polly and friend Wendy (Alia Shawkat) to be involved in such a painfully embarrassing work of “art” is indicative of what little he knows about babies. Or art, for that matter.
Though it’s obvious Silva intends ‘Nasty Baby’ (the art piece) to be an irritating joke, it comes off more annoying than funny. Silva has said that ‘Nasty Baby’ (again, the art piece) was a project he wanted to do a little under a decade ago when he was still a so-called ‘artist’ – but I think he’s the only one in on the meta-joke, folding over on itself and losing all meaning.
Apart from the trio attempting to bring life into this world there’s another element and problem: the mentally ill man called The Bishop (Reg E. Cathey). At first he appears harmless, until Polly begins to notice his obsession over a lamp he’s purchased from her and his attitude towards her and the couple. He causes a bevy of grief and displeasure to his neighbors and those around him, even exhibiting homophobic tendencies by shouting out slurs at his gay neighbors.
The film explodes in the third act, and while many critics found the film’s denouement arbitrary, I enjoyed it and found myself no longer squirming waiting for the film to end. But yes, the ending is entirely arbitrary, but I won’t spoil it for you here. Nevertheless, what’s truly disappointing here is that you’ll have to sit through the whole film to see how amazing an actress Kristen Wiig can be. Regardless how much you dislike the film – or its third act – it’s where Wiig’s performance crescendos.
According to Silva, Toronto refused to play the film last year unless he changed the third act. Obviously, he refused and the film premiered at Sundance earlier this year instead. I’m a fan of left-field changes-of-direction, but the two-thirds that lead there don’t equate to much and are largely uninterested and dragged out to justify a feature length film.
The story behind the complications of having a child only remains interesting for a limited time until that egg begins to rot; the narrative with The Bishop exists only to justify the third act.
The biggest offense, however, is not that the film has such a dark and bizarre turn of events in the third act, it’s what follows after is completely baffling. Spoiler Alert: the end credits involve a happy montage of the characters skating at a roller rink! A complete and drastic change of tone, after a a seriously dark ending that makes absolutely no sense and detracting from the films tone that made the ending so captivating.
Nasty Baby is a vain faux-art film desperate for attention, one lacking morality, genuine humor, or pathos. Primarily a film advert for Silva, his paws are all over this one; as the lead he’s unbearable and irritatingly aloof. Lacking any real edge and coming off as largely annoying. Ultimately, the film isn’t ruined by its controversial ending; it’s actually the other way around, with its final moments showing a glimpse of what might have been. The biggest atrocity here is torture followed by the murder of a potentially good story.