Babes

Babes

2024, R, 104 min. Directed by Pamela Adlon. Starring Ilana Glazer, John Carroll Lynch, Michelle Buteau, Hasan Minaj, Oliver Platt, Stephan James, Shola Adewusi, Sandra Bernhard, Crystal Finn.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 17, 2024

In a season 2 episode of Broad City – the 2010s’ other joyfully horny, feminist comedy about twentysomething women in New York – co-creators and stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, playing best friends named Ilana and Abbi, thumb through jokey T-shirts at a dollar store. Ilana’s eyes light up at a shirt reading “Female Body Inspector.” It’s perfect for her, she reasons: “I am a female, and I love to inspect bodies!” (“Yeah, I think that’s what that stands for,” her dubious but endlessly supportive friend murmurs.). That shirt will carry over to the next episode, when we see Ilana in montage run through an arpeggio of bodily functions in her bathroom – pooping, plunging a toilet, giving head, taking a bong rip, dancing her ass off. She sings the body electric.

That’s all long preamble to establish the soulful connection between Broad City and Babes, the latter starring Glazer and scripted by her with Josh Rabinowitz (a writer and producer on Broad City and The Carmichael Show). Her Babes character, Eden, is not so far removed from the comic persona Glazer honed on Broad City: principled, if often misguided, daft, devoted. The film’s preoccupations – the primacy of female friendship, the weird shit that happens to our bodies, or comes out of them – occupy the same space.

Eden is a yoga teacher and thirtysomething single woman living in Astoria. Her married best friend Dawn (Michelle Buteau, wildly charismatic) has moved to the Upper West Side. The distance (four train rides) is a sore spot, especially now that Dawn has had a second child and there is simply less time and mental energy left over for Eden, her emotionally needy best friend since childhood. The birth of her child opens Babes (another birth bookends the film), and there is not only no shyness about communicating what happens to bodies in pregnancy and childbirth – there are some great honking belly laughs to be had.

If you’ve watched Pamela Adlon’s Emmy-nominated Better Things – part of that same 2010’s starburst of women-centering, semi-autobiographical sitcoms as Broad City and Girls – then you know preciousness is not really her thing. In her feature directorial debut, she brings the same frankness. Visually, Babes leaves little impression, but Adlon knows how to film two people in dialogue, as when Eden hits it off with a stranger (Stephan James) on the train. There’s a seconds-long exchange, mostly nonverbal, in which the stranger signals he’s grown up enough to not get oogly about period sex and Eden is visibly aroused by that casual maturity; it’s an unshowy masterstroke from all hands on deck – acting, writing, directing, and editing.

Babes is mostly two people in dialogue – Eden with Dawn, Dawn with her husband (Hasan Minhaj), Eden with her OB/GYN (John Caroll Lynch) – and the film can feel a little hermetically sealed; you never quite buy that these people truly exist in the world, go to work, go to the drugstore, call customer service. But the bond between Eden and Dawn, and the electric chemistry between the two actresses, is enough to keep the film bopping along. Generous and warm and howling funny, there is such a light touch to Babes, you might not even clock the depth of its observations – its inspections – of body and heart both.

Showtimes

Mon., June 17

digital 11:15am

Tue., June 18

digital 4:20

Wed., June 19

digital 3:20

Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane

5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060, drafthouse.com/austin/theater/slaughter-lane

Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

Mon., June 17

digital 10:40

Tue., June 18

digital 10:05

Wed., June 19

digital 10:45

Mon., June 17

digital 3:45

Tue., June 18

digital 3:10

Wed., June 19

digital 10:15

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Babes, Pamela Adlon, Ilana Glazer, John Carroll Lynch, Michelle Buteau, Hasan Minaj, Oliver Platt, Stephan James, Shola Adewusi, Sandra Bernhard, Crystal Finn

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