Anti-abortion message, Lifetime style
‘October Baby” has been getting press attention because of its anti-abortion theme. That theme has led conservative religious groups to embrace the movie, as reported in a front-page New York Times story last week. The story noted that the film had already grossed nearly $3 million, more than triple its cost.
Hannah, a 19-year-old college student (Rachel Hendrix) discovers that her many longstanding health problems come of having been delivered prematurely, at 24 weeks, because of a failed abortion. Rachel seems less upset by the abortion news than by the fact that her parents never told her she was adopted.
John Schneider, as the father, is one of two familiar names in the cast. The other is Jasmine Guy. Quietly intense as the nurse who delivered Hannah, she seems to have wandered in from another, much better movie.
Its anti-abortion stance aside, “October Baby” looks and feels like a Lifetime movie waiting not to happen. There’s domestic drama, courtesy of Rachel’s conflict with her parents. There’s comic relief, courtesy of a VW microbus full of college students on their way to Mardi Gras (Rachel’s means of getting to Mobile, Ala., in search of her birth mother). There’s tourism-poster scenery, courtesy of the Gulf Coast. And, of course, there’s true love, courtesy of Jason (Jason Burkey), Rachel’s steadfast friend since childhood. The biggest question “October Sky” poses isn’t whether Rachel will find peace. It’s what’s taken her and Jason so long to start dating.
What’s most interesting – and depressing – about “October Baby” is how easily first-time feature directors Andrew and Jon Erwin have folded the anti-abortion theme into such standard Hollywood elements as building a plot on serial coincidence and a belief that the talking cure can solve any emotional problem so long as those doing the talking are backlit. One size fits all in Hollywood, whether romantic comedy or anti-abortion message movie.
True, “October Baby” can be specious specifically as well as generically. There’s the fortuitous priest who pops up about 20 minutes before the end. How fortuitous? Rachel’s a Baptist. But that’s OK compared to the one truly shameless thing in the movie. In Mobile, Hannah catches a glimpse of her half-sister. They make eye contact. The toddler, an adorable blonde, waves at her. All that’s bad enough. What’s truly shameless is the ErwJins shooting the scene in slow motion. Now that’s crossing the line – not between drama and advocacy, but advocacy and idiocy.
Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.