October Baby - Movie Review

October Baby posterAfter receiving the typical deluge of 'new faith-based movie coming soon!' marketing emails from The Maximus Group, my wife and I decided to go watch October Baby last night.

I'll just offer a few observations here, as I don't want to get into a full-on review, especially since there are hundreds of more-detailed reviews online. To preface this review, I'm going mostly on techincal/production quality merit... the story was compelling, and the movie is worth watching, but I don't feel this movie was worth a full $10+ ticket price at a movie theater.

  • Not a Hollywood movie.
    We're definitely getting closer... but this is still not a 'Hollywood-level' movie. The sound mix had multiple glaring problems, many shots had focus point problems, some framing was a bit off/distracting, and there were a few scenes that were cut at TV-level (or worse) quality. I really, really wish these faith-based films could get to the point where, technically, at least, they were on-par with lower-budget Hollywood films, and didn't remind me of 1990s Hallmark Hall of Fame TV flicks.
  • About that sound mix...
    When a sound mix distracts from the visual content of a movie, you have a problem. There were a few times this happened: when sitting on a dock, the lead male actor's phone rang (from inside his pocket, center screen), but the phone was so quiet, and to the right/back side speakers in the surround mix, that it sounded like it was in another theater! Also, when songs were mixed in with dialog, it sounded like iMovie/GarageBand's automatic ducking feature was used, as the music went so quiet at times it sounded like the theater was playing it's background mix (the one that plays while ads are rolling before a movie).
  • Not a Hollywood budget.
    It's hard to compete with movies that cost hundreds of millions of dollars when you're operating on a shoestring budget. It looks like October Baby is on track to make a few million dollars (see: October Baby on Box Office Mojo), but not much more. I hope the studio recoups the money they spent, at least. It'd be interesting to know the movie's budget, and how much was spent on marketing (I'm imagining less than a million).
  • More editing would've been better.
    There were a few sequences and scenes that had way too much unnecessary 'filler' material that detracted from the main storyline. The whole 'let's go on a wild road trip' thing was definitely not interesting, and offered only a couple quick gags at the expense of about 10 minutes of film, without adding any emotional depth or character development. If something isn't contributing to the story, drop it.
  • Pick-up shots needed.
    Going along with the first point, there are a few scenes where individual shots were oddly-framed, or the focus was slightly off. When the audience notices details that aren't relevant to the story (like a large sign on a building, or a phone number on a door that has nothing to do with the story), it distracts from the movie. In big-budget films, editors would notice these things and ask the production crew to go get some pick-up shots to replace the bad shots from earlier. But it seems this movie (like most lower-budget faith-based films) didn't do this.

[Warning: Potential spoilers ahead!]

I'm not saying, by any means, that this movie was a bad movie. It definitely makes one think about the consequences of abortion; and helps people realize that not every abortion is 'successful'. One of the scenes I really though had impact was when the biological mother reacted to her daughter's note; I wish her storyline would've gotten more room in the movie, because hers was probably the strongest performance in the cast!

One other quibble I had was with the adoptive father's strange schizophrenic behavior; he seemed to be loving, then uncaring, then kind-of loving, then angry, etc. It seemed to me he would've been a little more effective as a character if he would've been more consistent in his attitude about revealing his daughter's true history, and conversational with his wife (who seemed to have almost no role in the movie whatsoever).

The main character (a female lead portrayed in a good light, strong-willed and chaste—that rarely happens in Hollywood fodder...) definitely has a good career ahead of her; she acted very well with what she was given, but her character didn't seem to develop organically throughout the movie. It seemed like some of the emotional symptoms that were somehow caused by a botched abortion just fell away once she forgave her biological mother and adoptive father. I've never seen such an instant conversion of heart before, but it is a movie...

Finally, I don't know from where the movie drew inspiration for the doctor, but I have met very few doctors in real life who would even consider abortion to be the cause of anything negative (physically or psychologically), because their medical world feeds them constant lies about how safe and good abortion (and related ill-conceived medicine) is. Sadly, this is something that we'll have to pray about.

Conclusion: I don't feel the movie was worth $10.50, as I feel it was a made-for-TV quality production. But I would watch it again, and I do recommend the movie to anyone involved in the pro-life / pro-abortion debate. It's not the most fully-fleshed out argument in favor of a pro-life viewpoint, and has flaws, but it's a good point of discussion.

Comments

One thing of note, though, is the per-theater revenue for October Baby; I think more and more theaters are willing to pick up lower-budget faith-based films simply based on the fact that they will attract an audience of pretty much every evangelical and Catholic church in a 20 mile radius...

October Baby made about $4,500/theater, which puts it in the top 5 for this past weekend when it comes to revenue per theater.

The problem is, the wider the release of faith-based films, the more distilled the audience will be. I don't think the movie's take would benefit that much from a wide release, in thousands of theaters. It's in some ways better to make it 'exclusive' to a few theaters in town, as it builds up the community of faithful who watch all these faith-based films together.

I just went and saw October Baby. It was good, and I'd love to see more films like it...but of course more blockbuster-budgeted-films of this type would be *even better.*

That phone number on the door was very distracting. It's amazing how powerful some image like that can be. I can still recall it said something like "For admittance after hours call xxx-1995" Maybe I remember it because at that exact moment I thought "what does that have to do with anything?" I wondered if anyone gave that number a call after seeing the movie. Then I remembered your movie review here.

I was quite surprised during their crazy road trip to see the motel they chose. I thought "that looks familiar" but wrote it off until one of the next scenes where they showed the Dauphin Island bridge, which was very memorable to ride bicycle across. They'd filmed a scene *directly* in front of the room my buddy and I stayed in on our recent bicycle tour. It's a small world.

It's not a blockbuster, but it's good. Support it so they can keep making such films...and get better at making them.

-Fr. Jason

That's awesome about your road trip; too bad you didn't go while they were filming :)

I definitely think we need to keep supporting these films... I just wish we could get them up a couple more notches in quality. Something like the Passion of the Christ didn't have to cut as many corners as the stream of films that I keep getting tens of emails and mailings about.

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