x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Parenthood: Just like in the movies?

Hollywood has had some unusual takes on pregnancy in recent years.

Krysten Ritter, left, plays a young woman whose life is turned upside down in Life Happens. Courtesy Dot Dot Dot Productions
Krysten Ritter, left, plays a young woman whose life is turned upside down in Life Happens. Courtesy Dot Dot Dot Productions

In the new film Life Happens, coming soon to UAE cinemas, Krysten Ritter plays a young woman whose life is turned upside down when she becomes a mother. The movie is the latest in a long and rich tradition of comedies that cover the subject of pregnancy and parenthood. Whether it's the silver screen great Spencer Tracy coming to terms with an impending grandchild or the thoroughly modern world of Juno, the themes and feelings surrounding this most joyous of human experiences have been used to great comedic effect over the years.

We throw together some wacky moments from the movies for a guide on becoming a parent the Hollywood way. Some scenes will be unnervingly familiar; others will prove that life is indeed not like the movies.

Step 1: Never turn to your friends for advice

Best friends in movies are a wacky bunch, not least when giving advice on children. Often these colourful individuals have so many issues in their own lives that they are not at all equipped to deal with other people's problems.

This provided some of the material for the Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes' comedic drama Away We Go (2009), about an expecting couple who travel to different cities looking for a place to raise their child, only to find people (such as Maggie Gyllenhaal, who gave a hilarious performance as an eccentric hippie mother) who are the exact opposite of parental role models.

Step 2: The father will be completely unprepared

Almost all movie fathers-to-be are unprepared and, in many cases, completely unsuitable for their impending responsibility. The former could not be better illustrated than in John Hughes' 1988 film She's Having A Baby, in which the utterly self-absorbed Jake (Kevin Bacon) is caught off guard by his wife's desire to have a child.

As for the latter, look no further than Seth Rogen's sloth-like stoner in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up (2007). Rogan plays a man who has taken every conceivable shortcut in life (he is permanently unemployed after claiming fraudulent compensation from a work-related injury) until a drunken encounter means he must face up to the idea of being responsible for more than just his own welfare.

Step 3: The family will be supportive but intrusive

In-laws have always been a source of comedy in film, but once these characters hear they will be grandparents, a whole new realm of comedy opens up.

Probably the earliest example of this is from 1951's Father's Little Dividend, in which Spencer Tracy's lead character becomes almost as concerned about becoming a grandfather as his daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) is about becoming a mother.

More recently, Allison Janney's dog-loving stepmother in the Oscar-winning Juno (2007) unleashes a flurry of unwelcome attention during one hilarious ultrasound scene after Ellen Page's smart-mouthed teenager becomes unexpectedly "with child".

Step 4: Labour must be comedic

Probably the most universal of all movies dealing with pregnancy is that the labour must be a frantic, slapstick-riddled affair, with the mother screaming abuse at her beleaguered partner, who may do one or all of the following: faint, trip over, have his hand crushed by his partner or question the aptitude of the doctor delivering the baby.

Such pandemonium has led to that most unflappable of English gentleman, Hugh Grant, biting the hand of his on-screen girlfriend Julianne Moore to get free of her grip in the 1995 comedy Nine Months, and Elizabeth Banks resorting to violence to obtain pain medication in last year's What to Expect When You're Expecting.

Step 5: The baby makes it all worthwhile

This is the one part of the movies that is like real life. Regardless of the trials, traumas and tribulations of the characters involved, a smiling, healthy baby at the end of the process makes the whole journey worthwhile, and all of the trouble anyone experienced along the way seems to fade into the background.

Top of the list in this regard is the wonderful 2007 film Waitress, a touching tribute to the power of motherhood in which a reluctantly pregnant waitress (Keri Russell) sets aside all her reservations as soon as she sees her newborn daughter and tearfully remarks: "Have you ever seen a baby this beautiful?"

A darker but no less valid example came in the 1988 teen drama For Keeps, in which a new mother (played by the 1980s icon Molly Ringwald) begins to overcome her postpartum depression when the safety of her baby is put in jeopardy.

artslife@thenational.ae

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