×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

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

  • Visitors arrive at the Hudson Yards

    AT&T Sells WarnerMedia Hudson Yards Space to Pay Down Debt

    AT&T has cut a deal to sell and lease back its WarnerMedia office space in New York’s glitzy Hudson Yards development for $2.2 billion to help pare down its enormous debt load. AT&T said Tuesday it has set a deal to sell its office space at 30 Hudson Yards to an affiliate of Related Companies, [...]

  • Japanese actor Ken Watanabe poses on

    Ken Watanabe to Star in Japan Edition of 'The Fugitive'

    Warner Bros. International Television Production and Japan’s TV Asahi network are teaming to remake “The Fugitive” as a special program that celebrates TV Asahi’s 60th anniversary. Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai,” “Godzilla,” “Inception”) will star in the title role made famous by David Janssen in the 1963-1967 U.S. TV series and then by Harrison Ford [...]

  • black lgbtq actors hollywood representation

    TV Roundup: 'Pose' Season 2 Premiere Date Pushed Back on FX

    In today’s roundup, “Pose” gets a new Season 2 premiere date and Sara Gilbert is set to play a recurring role on Season 3 of Netflix’s “Atypical.” FIRST LOOK The TV Academy has unveiled the key art for the 71st Emmy Awards. The new design, which will be used across platforms including the Emmy’s website, [...]

  • James Holzhauer Jeopardy

    Why James Holzhauer Is Bad for 'Jeopardy!' (Column)

    James Holzhauer, who is closing in on a million dollars of game-show winnings, is on track to become the most successful “Jeopardy!” contestant of all time. And he’s become such a dominant force that a historic run has come to seem, as television, boring. Over the course of thirteen episodes and counting, Holzhauer’s methods and [...]

  • Joe Ianniello

    CBS Suspends CEO Search, Extends Ianniello in Role Through 2019

    CBS Corp. said it would suspend the months-long search it has conducted for a new leader for the company since the departure of Leslie Moonves and would instead extend the tenure of its acting chief, Joseph Ianniello, through the end of 2019. “Joe has demonstrated exceptional leadership during this time of unprecedented transition at CBS. [...]

  • Wanda Sykes Silicon Valleywood

    Wanda Sykes on Doing Business With Netflix: 'They Moved That Comma'

    MENLO PARK, Calif. — Wanda Sykes wears a lot of hats as a comedian, writer, producer and entrepreneur, and that gives her a keen sense of the ever-growing content marketplace. She also has a very clear understanding of what she’s worth in dollars and cents, as she shared Tuesday in her Q&A at Variety’s Silicon [...]

  • Jenna Hager Hoda Kotb

    NBC News Sets Joanne LaMarca as EP, 'Today' Fourth Hour

    Just after NBC News recalibrated the fourth our of its daytime “Today” program, it has named a new executive producer to oversee the show. Joanne LaMarca, a longtime “Today” staffer who left NBC News in 2017 after a long run, will return as the new head of the 10 a.m. hour that is now led by [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content