×

The Baby Dance

The subject of adoption has fueled a spate of television movies, theatrical features and stage productions. "The Baby Dance," a theater piece adapted for cable TV, mostly suffers from treading familiar ground -- from the legal morass to the painful second thoughts experienced by the birth mother.

With:
Wanda LeFauve - Laura Dern Rachel Luckman - Stockard Channing Richard Luckman - Peter Riegert Al LeFauve - Richard Lineback Ron Callaway - Wally Dalton Doreen - Sandra Seacat Dr. Selby - Stephen E. Miller

The subject of adoption has fueled a spate of television movies, theatrical features and stage productions. “The Baby Dance,” a theater piece adapted for cable TV, mostly suffers from treading familiar ground — from the legal morass to the painful second thoughts experienced by the birth mother. Its take is a tad too clinical, and when the story finally asserts its unique voice, it comes too late and too briefly to afford the pic distinction. Nonetheless, a fine cast humanizes the material, allowing for a watchable, sometimes compelling small-screen drama.

In adapting her play, first-time director Jane Anderson dilutes some of the story’s power by attempting to give equal weight to both the biological and adoptive mothers of the piece.

Wanda LeFauve (Laura Dern) is a dirt-poor mother of four with an unemployed husband (Richard Lineback) living in a cramped trailer on the outskirts of Shreveport, La. Pregnant once again, she happens upon a newspaper ad placed by a couple hoping to adopt a healthy newborn. Summoning up her courage, Wanda makes the telephone call.

Beyond their infertility, the couple — Rachel (Stockard Channing) and Richard Luckman (Peter Riegert) — are very much the antithesis of the LeFauves: wealthy, Jewish urbanites from L.A. But both couples have at least one thing in common — a sense of caution. Their “Baby Dance” is an elaborate skirting of logistics, legal matters, fears, prejudices and a whole laundry list of matters to be addressed prior to the child’s birth.

The setup sounds promising enough on paper, but on film Anderson ruminates far too long on tensions that seem to take forever to come to a boil. There is unquestionable power in the way all concerned are willing to extend themselves — often to the point of humiliation — for tangible things. The Luckmans travel to Louisiana to check out the “donors” and swallow hard to pass themselves off as just plain folks. At the same time, the LeFauves pretend to conduct their lives with the quiet civility of the moneyed, which they could have learned only from bad movies. The pathos in these scenes is extraordinary.

It’s inevitable that an explosion will occur, and it’s a humdinger: When a seemingly trivial aside is misconstrued, the two women go at each other with hammer and tongs, unleashing all that’s been left unsaid. It’s a potent, overpowering moment; unfortunately, everything that follows is anticlimactic.

Anderson employs a simple, direct visual style that suits the quiet, insular nature of the story. But there’s a sameness to her pacing that tends to be numbing despite the emotional explosions that punctuate the narrative.

Though the principal performances are all strong, it’s really the two women who keep us watching “The Baby Dance.” In the flashier role, Dern strives not to make Wanda standard-issue white trash, nor mere victim or pariah — though she is a composite of all these things. Channing’s part is even more layered, as her character wrestles with doing the “right thing” without losing sight of the manipulations necessary to get what she wants.

Popular on Variety

The Baby Dance

Showtime; Sun. Aug. 23, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Vancouver by Egg Pictures, in association with Pacific Motion Pictures, for Showtime. Executive producers, Jodie Foster, Robert Halmi Jr., Tony Allard, Matthew O'Connor; producers, Meg LeFauve, Vicky Herman; director-writer, Jane Anderson, based on her play.

Crew: Camera, Jan Kiesser; editor, Norman Buckley; music, Terry Allen; production designer, Brent Thomas; art director, Randy Chodak; set decorator, Louise Roper; costume designer, Gregory Mah; sound (Dolby), Michael McGee; assistant director, Patrice Leung; casting, Sid Kozak. 1 HOUR, 35 MIN.

Cast: Wanda LeFauve - Laura Dern Rachel Luckman - Stockard Channing Richard Luckman - Peter Riegert Al LeFauve - Richard Lineback Ron Callaway - Wally Dalton Doreen - Sandra Seacat Dr. Selby - Stephen E. Miller

More TV

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

  • UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad

    UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad Girls Throughout History' as Anthology Series

    Universal Content Productions (UCP) is developing an anthology series based on Ann Shen’s book “Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World.” The project will be titled “Bad Girls,” with each episode featuring a different influential woman throughout history, including famous figures like Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, Mata Hari, and Ruth Bader [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content