Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Pauline Kael

“If there were justice in the world of entertainment, Baby Boom would be unwatchable. But Diane Keaton gives a smashing, glamorous performance that rides over many of the inanities. As soon as you see J.C. striding through the corridors of power, her suit cinched in by a broad belt, her body swinging and lurching forward, as if she were diving into the challenges of the day, you know that she finds success sexy. Her having all this drive is played for farce, and Keaton keeps you alert to every shade of pride and panic J.C. feels. J.C. is an utlra-feminine executive, a wide-eyed charmer, with a breathless ditziness that may remind you of Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier. She does funny, flighty things, and Keaton shows you the core of confusion that they come out of. She's funniest when J.C. loses control, as in her scene with a Vermont plumber (Britt Leach) who tells her the well has gone dry: she expostulates, then collapses. Keaton is acting in a different range from the frequently inspired work she did in Shoot the Moon, The Little Drummer Girl, Mrs. Soffel, and Crimes of the Heart. Her J.C. is star acting, but she doesn't treat it like hack work. J.C. gets a kick out of business success; it's a form of conquest, and it satisfies her vanity--it's like being the best student at school. But she also knows that it's time to graduate and find out what else is out there.”

Pauline Kael
The New Yorker, October 19, 1987
Hooked, pp 377-378

David Thomson

“Since [Mrs. Soffel] there has been a gradual decline… Baby Boom… was very soft stuff….

David Thomson
A Biographical Dictionary of Film
Third Edition, 1994, p. 391

David Edelstein

“Diane Keaton isn't the easiest actress to cast. She's deceptively accomplished, but she comes to a role with her mannerisms in tow; like a bashful duchess with ladies-in-waiting, she nervously invokes them when she's feeling exposed. She exhales "yeahs" and "hmmmms" when she hasn't got anything else to say, which might lead you to think that she isn't in control. Except the tics don't derail the character, the way they do with someone like Goldie Hawn--they're just little notes she throws in to keep her place in the score. Mannered or not, she has the greatest gift a performer can have. For every important moment, every emotional beat, every climax, she's totally there: she's authentic in all the ways that count. Watching Keaton act is like being in a fast car on a winding mountain road; she might be all over the road, but she doesn't leave it, and when she roars into that parking space you're winded, laughing, exhilarated.

“Baby Boom is formula swill, a sitcom tailored to yuppie fantasies of escape, but Keaton makes an event of it: her spectacular return to high [?] comedy. After dutifully doing her serious actress thing (and giving sensational performances in Shoot the Moon, The Little Drummer Girl, and Mrs. Soffel), she comes back to farce with a new virtuosity and confidence--not to mention glamour. As J.C. Wiatt, a high-flying management-consultant executive who get saddled with a distant (dead) relative's baby, Keaton is hilariously miscast. She isn't particularly convincing as a steely executive (she's too dizzy) or even a devoted mother (she's too dizzy). But she's marvelous conveying the anger and subtle panic she feels in the face of her gradual loss of power, the frustration at watching control of her life slip away, and the pain of trying to reconcile two legitimate impulses in a culture inhospitable to female ambition.

“… [F]or all their inanity, Shyer and Meyers let Keaton cut loose in high style. She wears sleek, striped business suits, and, in one scene, a supple black number with a high collar and wide brown belt. The famous clotheshorse at last has occasion to prance. [Some of her clothes, though, are big, drapy, awful things.] But clothes don't make the actress. Keaton can throw a sputtering breakdown on screen--in which she rants, reels, sobs, and passes out--and have you laughing and crying at once; her comic timing is inspired, but it's the pain and fury behind the tirade that makes the scene such a knockout. She's a great comedienne and a great actress. Liv Ullmann, eat your heart out. [What's Liv Ullmann got to do with it? It had been ten years since she had been a critic's darling, although Stanley Kauffmann, often so hard on Keaton, kept the faith and had raved about Ullmann as recently as 1981 (in Richard's Things). Is Edelstein jibing Kauffmann?
In any event, that dual "great" seems callow and too heavy for this role, but Edelstein's description of the performance is, as often, virtuosic.]

David Edelstein
Village Voice, October 13, 1987

David Ansen

“J. C. Wiatt…, Harvard M.B.A., is the very model of a modern major Yuppie. Called "the tiger lady"…, she's a ferociously competitive management consultant avidly climbing the New York corporate ladder. What would happen, asks Baby Boom, if this compulsive careerist suddenly found herself entrusted with the care of an infant?….

“…. It's a cute, often clever, deliberately conventional comedy, gift-wrapped so that no disturbing ambiguities spill out. From first to last, it's Keaton's movie, and she makes a delightful return to comic form. Her mounting frustrations reach a hilarious peak in Vermont when, confronted with frozen pipes, country bumpkins and an unsought celibacy, she throws a titanic hissy that will gladden the hearts of aggrieved city slickers everywhere….”

David Ansen
Newsweek, date ?

David Denby

“…. Yet the picture is entertaining anyway--and at times entrancingly so--because Diane Keaton is the lead. Returning to comedy after years of dramatic roles, she has lost her dithering vagueness; she's brisk, almost fierce, and she transforms the shopworn ideas into something ardent and fresh.

“Keaton plays America's perfet management consultant, J. C. Wiatt… Each morning… this paragon sweeps into her office…, spouting flow-chart gibberish so fast that four assistants stand openmouthed with wonder. Has anyone done a more likable boss-lady turn than Keaton? The bold walk as she enters the office seems designed to show off her broad-shouldered, cinch-waisted clothes; she stares down her superior and then pumps herself up for the morning's work like a linebacker before a big game. We enjoy her enjoying herself--she's never been sexier than as tough-talking J.C., offering arrogant advice to impressed company heads as she swings around a conference table in a flawless black dress.

“Part of our pleasure, of course, comes from knowing that J.C.'s air of mastery is something of a put-on (under the mahogany table, her toe is tapping uncontrollably). Keaton makes us see that J.C.'s super-confidence is, indeed, a confidence trick. The constant revving up ("Hey, the Tiger Lady is on the case. I'm totally on top of it") holds off panic. And perhaps only a woman could bring us this insight: A male actor of Keaton's status probably wouldn't have the candor to play it this way….

“Even when Keaton allows J.C. to get foolish and bitchy, we like her. Her nasty moods have a giddy transparency (we can spot the nice, struggling woman underneath), and yet she still manages to stay deep inside the character, allowing us to see how the baby's falling into J.C.'s lap amounts to a betrayal of her whole life. After all, J.C. has probably worked much harder than a man to develop that aura of invincibility. Suddenly, she's pushed back to the common fate of woman--taking care of a child (and, perhaps the most exasperating thing of all, she's not even good at it.) Her anger doesn't seem crude or vicious. Keaton, with her talent for ambivalence, does the heart-tugging thing that the filmmakers require without embarrassing us: She lets us know that J.C.'s angry because she's giving in; she's falling in love….

“…. [W]hen taking care of Elizabeth begins to interfer with her job, she chucks that… and runs off to Vermont. Just like that. After establishing the character with some care, Meyers and Shyer expect us to believe that this Harvard M.B.A. would buy an old house and 62 acres over the telephone, sight unseen…. The boondocks are treated in the same stale way that New York is, but soon Keaton has another wonderful moment, lamenting her life to a frightened plumber as she stalks back and forth in the cold like a snowbound Medea. She faints, and wakes up in the office of a doctor who also appears to be the only young man in the county….

“…. As Private Benjamin made clear, Meyers and Shyer know how to thump all the populist chords; they know how to bring down a woman who thinks she's better than anyone else. But what if someone really were better? This democratic leveling has its demeaning side. The filmmakers humanize J.C. too much, making her spill things on the floor and bang haplessly at a flat tire, as if we wouldn't like her if she weren't incompetent at something. The same belittling impulse appeared in teh Katharine Hepburn movie Woman of the Year (1942)…. Filmmakers are always cutting heroines down to size for the mass audience, many of whom may not want their heroines diminished.

“The conventionality of Meyers and Shyer's wisdom is infuriating. We're meant to understand that J.C.'s terrific business career is based on the denial of her womanhood. Raising the baby, on the other hand, makes her a woman for the first time and a better person--she can accept sex and love. The filmmakers' assumptions about what people really need could come close to enforcing mediocrity. How can Meyers and Shyer be so sure they know what's best for a woman? Some women just don't have a vocation for motherhood. But Diane Keaton makes me believe that J.C. has it.”

David Denby
New York, October 12, 1987

Stanley Kauffmann

“…. Keaton has her best comic role since Annie Hall and rings all the bells. It's less a performance than a polished merchandising job, D. Keaton Inc. Very Mod Mirthmaker; but she delivers--the quick starts, the self-interruptions, the bursts of amusement and perception as if her speech and features were trying to keep us with her racing mind. She decorates even slight scenes with a filigree of shtick. For instance, near the end, her old firm gives her a tremendous offer to return. She asks for a minute to think it over, steps into the ladies'room, and goes through a brief routine in front of the mirror, ending with a snap of the fingers, that makes the scene--in itself nothing--a bright bit….

Stanley Kauffmann
New Republic, date ?

Diane Keaton

In the middle of this love [with Al Pacino] came Baby Boom. The script, about a woman who is forced to adopt a baby, was laugh-out-loud hilarious....It was great to feel attractive and cute and funny again. I became J.C. Wiatt--snappy, sassy, and ready to go. What great good fortune. Or, as J.C. Wiatt would have said, "I'm back. I am back."...

Diane Keaton, Then Again, p. 162-63

Andrew Sarris

Andrew Sarris did not review Baby Boom, but in his annual Oscar forecast column, he noted:

“Confidentially, if I were an Academy member this year, I would vote for Streep, though, if Christine Lahti (Housekeeping, Diane Keaton (Baby Boom), and Maggie Smith (The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne) had received their merited nominations, I would have had a difficult time determining my vote….”

Village Voice, March 15, 1988
[my copy incomplete--may have said more]

Stephen Schiff

Stephen Schiff did not review Baby Boom (that I have found), but he named Keaton the Best Actress of 1987 in his <"Personal Oscars">, Vanity Fair, date ?


Diane Keaton
Baby Boom 1987

Get Haskell, etc.