In Sebastian Silva’s semiautobiographical drama he stars as Freddy, a performance artist living in Brooklyn with his boyfriend Mo (TV On The Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe, who also recently starred in “7 Chinese Brothers”). Along with Freddy’s best friend Polly (Kristen Wiig), the trio are trying to have a baby together. The process inspires Freddy’s art – he strongly feels that deciding to create a new life instead of adopting is “such a selfish act” that he has to pay a price for it.
That price turns out to be an art installation dubbed “Nasty Baby,” a piece where he plans to roll around on the floor crying and cooing like a baby. After early interest from a gallery curator, he proceeds to work on the project with his assistant (Alia Shawkat, “Arrested Development”), eventually deciding to add some of his friends to the idea. Several months of failed attempts making an actual baby conclude with Freddy being informed that his sperm count is too low to continue. Mo ends up struggling with the idea of him becoming the sperm donor and is uncertain if he wants that responsibility.
Throughout the first two-thirds of the movie, “Nasty Baby” is an engaging, if not slightly pretentious, indie drama. For some viewers, the mere casting of Kristen Wiig creates an expectation of comedy. And she has some truly funny moments in this film, but the role is more in line with her recent work in “Welcome To Me” or “The Skeleton Twins” where the story has a darker side than initially revealed.
WIthout venturing into spoiler territory, this film takes a very sharp detour in its final act. There is very little in the story that has come before to prepare you for its violent conclusion. It has such a bizarre tonal shift that I found it very hard to accept. Yes, life happens and unexpected things go wrong, but this takes that idea to the extreme and was, at least for me, a difficult leap of faith.
The film was notoriously turned down by the Toronto Film Festival last fall, who said they would not accept it unless the ending was changed. It debuted at Sundance instead, where there were walkouts during the premiere. Nobody ran from the aisles at AGLIFF, but there was a palpable reaction from the audience during the story’s shift. To say it’s not for everybody is an understatement, but it just may turn into a cult hit for that very reason.
“Nasty Baby” will recieve a limited theatrical release on October 23, followed by a VOD release on October 30.