Several months ago I finally popped in a free DVD I'd gotten at an event. It had been one of two free DVDs, the other one being Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which I'd enjoyed thoroughly multiple times and ways (that sounds dirty. Heh. I approve) and then passed along to friends figuring they'd like it. This DVD was Baby Mama, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. This DVD got watched once then put in a bag of stuff I've since left at Goodwill.
But there's more going on than "I didn't like that film." Beyond it being a comedy that didn't make me laugh much (and considering the surreal hilarity Fey and Company are achieving on 30 Rock, that makes it more of a waste), a major part of the film bothered me:
So Fey's character Kate is a career-successful person who (cliché of clichés coming up; come on, there are other stories worth telling about middle-aged career women) has not been able to have a baby as she's also wanted. She decides to have a surrogate carry a baby for her. This goes badly, as she's poorly matched with Angie (Poehler), a surrogate who should not be a surrogate. For one thing, she's in it for the money, not for the "help people who can't have the babies they want" aspect. Angie's home life is demonstrably unsettled, which is or should be a red flag for the agencies that set up these arrangements. Sigourney Weaver's character talks about how careful her agency is, then she and her underlings ignore the warning signs about Angie, and hilarity (SUPPOSEDLY) happens. Not careful. Not good. I'll get back to that.
Who tells Kate she can't get pregnant in the first place? A fertility expert played by John Hodgman.
I have this block about John Hodgman. I've yet to "get" him. I've read excerpts from his books and responded not with laughter but with Huh? And his role in the now-retired "I'm a Mac/And I'm a PC" ads rubbed me the wrong way. In his books, as I understand it, his shtick is to be a know-it-all who knows nothing; in the Mac ads, he plays the personification of an operating system that, apparently, can do nothing right (I almost always work on PCs, by the way, so you know); in Baby Mama, he's completely wrong, and arrogantly so, about Kate's chances to get pregnant. (Surprise, Kate gets pregnant late in the film, while Angie is not pregnant but fakes being pregnant but THEN really does get pregnant with her boyfriend.) To me it went beyond "medical care doesn't always figure out the true cause of medical problems" -- I dated someone who was undiagnosed bipolar, who had other issues that disguised the big underlying issue (now much better treated, thank everything); I've seen this up close -- and made me think This guy is bad at his job. Flat-out, full-bore bad at his job. And he doesn't care.
I'm sure there are mediocre fertility specialists, but the whole plot of this film relies on his being mediocre or bad. The agency people don't do their jobs, either. So Kate, who is demonstrably GOOD at what she does (the film, to its credit, makes a point of that, though has trouble making it funny), is being let down by people doing important work badly for her. This bothered me. It made me less likely to find any of this flick funny.
And it made me realize I'm maybe too sensitive to people doing their jobs badly.
That's one of my worries: doing my jobs badly. Sometimes circumstances keep me from doing my best; sometimes *I* keep me from doing my best. And I can fret about this stuff. Co-workers know that. Family and friends know that. And to find someone Doing It Wrong and not really caring that they're Doing It Wrong, that rubs me badly. It in fact chafes me.
As messily written as last year's Star Trek was (though keep in mind I really, really loved the film), one of the big things it got right was this: the Starfleet cadets and officers are demonstrably GOOD at what they do. They have talent and brains and skills and drive, and they combine all these to save the day more than once. I love that, in one crisis, Chekov runs to help, and while he runs says "I can do this! I can do this!" I love that attitude. In that case, there's no arrogance to it. There CAN be arrogance, that "Damn I'm good" sort of thing, but if you talk the talk and walk the walk, I can respect it. (Like how I like Chad Ochocinco; that takes not just cojones to pull off renaming yourself like that, but he's a good player with huge potential. He's more than a big personality; he can deliver on his promise. I hope he keeps doing that.)
All this is the wrong thinking to have while watching an alleged comedy. Instead of getting pleasure at Baby Mama (and, I'll admit, indulging my thing for Tina Fey), I was thinking of annoying stuff and getting annoyed. And finally got moved to vent about it months later; I'd wanted to write this entry for a while.
I want things to work. I want my work to work. I want to support others doing good work. These are good goals to have.