LITTLE ROCK October Baby
82 Cast: Rachel Hendrix, Jason Burkey, John Schneider, Jennifer Price, Jasmine Guy Directors: Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin Rating: PG-13, for thematic material Running time: 101 minutes
Writing about a “faith-based” film is a bit like writing about Tim Tebow.
There exists a constituency for such films, a built-in fan base for whom theology trumps dramatic interest and plausibility. There are people who approve of the movie’s message, and therefore will defend the movie no matter how obvious its shortcomings as a conventional piece of entertainment aimed at general audiences.
These people may see the movie as an evangelical tool or simply as a more palatable reflection of the world as they believe it to be than the typical Hollywood offering and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’m in favor of people making movies to tell whatever sort of stories they want to tell for whatever reasons they want to tell them to whatever audiences they can attract.
But the constituency for faithbased films is but a small subset of the readership of a general interest newspaper, and my duty is not just to those who approve of the message the October Baby filmmakers are trying to send. It’s not my job to tell you whether or not to see this movie, or to decide whether this movie is “good” in the moral sense. My job is to try to say something interesting about it.
And the most interesting thing about October Baby is that it manages to tell a shocking and emotionally freighted story in a straightforward, conventional way that ultimately reads as a Lifetime movie. It takes pains to come across as nonjudgmental while maintaining an unmistakably evangelical point-of-view. This is an anti-abortion movie but it feels mild and conventional, underpowered and “nice.”
It’s about a 19-year-old college student Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) who collapses onstage during a school play. Subsequently we discover that she has had health issues all her life —asthma, hip surgeries and various seizures — and she discovers that she was adopted, after she survived an attempted late-term abortion.
And like all movie kids do when they find out that the people who reared them — in this case, a flaxen locked doctor (John Schneider, bestowing a touch of grace) and his wife (Jennifer Price) — were not their biological parents, Hannah sets off on a quest to find herself.
Or at least on a spring break trip to New Orleans with a bunch of college pals, including Jason (Jason Burkey) and his girlfriend, in a (get this) Volkswagen microbus.
But while the others just want to have fun, Hannah has a different agenda. She was, her birth certificate says, born in Mobile, Ala. What better way to find out who you are than to go back to where you’re from?
“My whole life is a lie,” she pleads melodramatically. And while actually it’s not, Jason agrees to take her, to find what she will.
It should be said that the real problem with the film isn’t the performances (Hendrix is pretty and bland, Burkey does well enough in his stock role) but with a clunky script that has a lot of characters sitting around, telling each other things.
It feels rote and predictable; though the story is certainly novel (and horrible) enough to hold the interest, it insists on taking the most conventional path to its inevitable “powerful” denouement.
While it’s better than most movies of its kind, it’s still pretty weak entertainment, though choir members should feel free to sing its praises. Amen.