(The 43rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival starts May 18 and runs almost a month, all the way until June 11. Stay tuned to Hammer to Nail for reviews throughout the festivals monster run.)
If you’re going to freeze your offspring at a certain age, the one in which they need the most care seems like the worst choice. But the eponymous company in Bob Byington’s Infinity Baby doesn’t make their money by selling babies that don’t age. Rather, they are a subsidiary of a pharmaceutical company who created these babies by accident and now must find homes for them. The pharmaceutical company most certainly makes money and lots of it. Those who choose to adopt an Infinity Baby are given a check for $20,000 and a supply of pills that nourish the baby once per day, keep it happy and sleepy, and somehow prevent it from soiling its diapers more than once per week. These kind souls are basically getting paid to help clean up corporate messes.
Onur Tukel’s screenplay depicts a near-future dystopia in which abortion has been outlawed and the “trade-off” allowed for stem cell research. It’s better not to think too hard about what that means for women in this universe, because we already have enough to worry about. But this type of society also yields many men in an arrested emotional state. One such grownup Infinity Baby is the company’s board executive, Ben (Kieran Culkin), who is constantly either going on a blind date with a woman, or figuring out a way to break up with a woman. His choice move for breakups involves “prepping” his girlfriends for an introduction to his mother (Megan Mullally), making it clear that if it doesn’t go well, their relationship “cannot proceed.” Spoiler alert: it never goes well. Why does Ben have such a hard time finding the right woman? He blames it on a divergence of life goals. He would like to do nothing but party and talk at them. So when they express an interest in anything resembling a balanced relationship, he enacts his escape plan.
Also living life irresponsibly, are Larry (Kevin Corrigan) and Malcolm (Martin Starr), employees of Infinity Baby and also a live-in couple. These two say the darndest things (usually insulting or inappropriate), as they deliver babies. They bandy about constantly as they go about their day, like a sullen Vince and Jules (or maybe an upbeat Bud and Otto from Repo Man). When a recipient changes her mind upon delivery, Larry and Malcolm devise a plan to keep the check and take the baby home with them. But such minimal responsibilities as a few pills a day and a once weekly diaper change prove too much for the pair. To add injury to insult, Larry blinds Malcolm on purpose.
Ben’s uncle, Neo (Nick Offerman), just happens to be the CEO of the company. When he’s not belittling current and potential employees, he gives a matter-of-fact walk-and-talk explanation to the camera about the origins of Infinity Baby. He says things like, “In order to make money, you’ve gotta kill a few babies.”
There aren’t a lot of LOLs in the film, but some of the cast, especially Kevin Corrigan, manages to keep it light. Tukel shows a lot of promise as a screenwriter with lines likes, “The cooing of a baby is the sweetest sound there is. Or at least it’s up there” and “I don’t really love advice.”
The plot trucks along nicely, and manages to hit all the right beats in the scant 70 minute running time. The theme about the importance of growing up is spelled out for anyone who might have missed it. After watching Ben be insufferable for much of the film, it’s satisfying to watch his inevitable takedown.
Fans of Austin-based Byington’s previous work (7 Chinese Brothers, Somebody Up There Likes Me), will find the bleak and surrealistic tone familiar. Shot in black and white, the production value is reminiscent of early Indies, like Clerks and Slacker. Though Byington didn’t write the script this time around, Tukel mirrors his sensibilities. For the uninitiated, Byington’s films are best describes as Twilight Zone Todd Solondz with jokes. Depending on your taste, that will either sound like the best or worst possible formula. Plan accordingly.
– Jessica Baxter (@tehBaxter)