Also recommended:
Recommended list for this issueFeatured Film: U–571

From the July 2000
Film Review

Film Review Hotline
4 Stars

Ben Elton interview accompanies review in this issue

STARS: Hugh Laurie, Joely Richardson, Adrian Lester, James Purefoy, Tom Hollander, Joanna Lumley, Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Dawn French
CERTIFICATE: 15DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Redbus
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 44 mins

Helmets ahoy for Hugh Laurie and Joely Richardson

Ben Elton is a very funny man. Since, at the age of 23, he scripted TV’s The Young Ones he has gone on to forge parallel careers as gag writer, stand-up comic, novelist, playwright, actor and now, with Maybe Baby, movie director.

Feeling the need to write a romantic comedy, Elton elected to simultaneously construct a novel and screenplay around the same idea: a couple desperately trying to conceive a baby. While loosely fabricated from the nuts and bolts of his own life (he and his wife went through in vitro fertilization) the film is, its writer-director insists, strictly fiction. Yet its basis is real enough that the comedy emerges from identifiable situations.

Hugh Laurie stars as Sam Bell, a commissioning editor for the BBC who feels that he has stumbled into a rut. His wife Lucy (Richardson) is a theatrical agent who, likewise, feels something is missing. While they are hopelessly in love (with each other, for a change) and have good jobs, funny friends, matching motorbikes, a nice flat and a compassionate basset hound, they decide to give meaning to their existence.

And so sex takes over: sex in the afternoon, sex upside-down, sex on Hampstead Heath. But Sam’s sperm isn’t getting through to Lucy’s ovaries.

Meanwhile, Sam has had enough of his line-towing job and decides to fulfil his ambition to write a screenplay. But on what? Encouraged to write about what he knows, he decides to construct a comedy around his and Lucy’s ill-fated attempts to conceive. Of course, he can’t tell Lucy that or the plot could become contrived. Besides, all he needs is an ending…

The best ideas are usually the simplest ones and Ben Elton has hit upon a rich comic seam here. Thus, the fiction based on Elton’s own life (it’s no accident that Sam works for the BBC) becomes inexorably linked with the fiction that Sam is drudging up from his own.

This conceit aside, the director has coaxed some hilarious performances from a stellar cast and has fed them some vintage dialogue. Yet once the plot mechanics have been revealed and the laughter has subsided, there are some very real truths left around to chew over. And that is the power of Elton’s deceptively likeable comedy: he drags it kicking and screaming from recognizable anguish.

James Cameron-Wilson

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.

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Also reviewed online this month:
4 Stars
U-571 • released June 2


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Eye of the Beholder • June 9
The House of Mirth • June 16
28 Days rescheduled from MayJune 16
Not One LessJune 23
Relative Values • June 23
Beyond the Mat • June 30

3 Stars (a Good rating)
Selected 'good' films from a month with over 30 releases... but no five-star films!
June 2 • The Ninth Gate

June 9 • Return To Me
June 9
Sweet and Lowdown
June 16 • Frequency