Review: No Happy End in Showtimes Baby Dance

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It may have a benign title, but The Baby Dance, an
original movie scheduled on Showtime, is no charming minuet: It's a cross between a
contemplation on the factors that have grown the private-adoption trend, while also a
screed against it. Everyone comes off, at some time or another, as a trafficker in human
lives.

The reliably fine Laura Dern (Wanda LaFauve) and Stockard
Channing (Rachel Luckman) star as the disparate, desperate mothers-to-be in a film
adaptation of a stage play by Jane Anderson.

Rachel's infertile, while Wanda is saddled with an
unemployed pipe-fitter husband who is averse to "wearing an overcoat." Faced
with a fifth addition to her family, Wanda answers an ad placed by Rachel and Richard
(Peter Riegert) soliciting a mother who wants to put her baby up for adoption.

What follows is not a cultural clash, but a cultural
nuclear meltdown, as wealthy Jewish suburbanites are introduced to authentic rural
Shreveport, La., trailer trash. Rachel winces every time Wanda smokes a cigarette or
drinks coffee; Wanda sees no irony in fantasizing over the endless chocolate bunnies and
jelly beans that her unborn daughter will enjoy during Easter with her rich Jewish
parents.

Rachel provides vitamins and money for prenatal health care
only to find that the cash goes to bail Grandma out of jail after bad-check charges are
filed. It's obvious early on that there will be virtually no commonality here.

Nobody comes away clean. We see the grief of the birth
parents, who resent their circumstances, but who are imprisoned by them, yet not above
using the situation for their personal gain.

The Luckmans, too, are not angelic -- you can see on their
faces their concern that the backward circumstances into which the baby will be born will
somehow ooze into her DNA. They are shopping for perfection, and the only one who will
suffer in the end will be the baby.

The performances throughout are subdued and powerful. Be
warned: There is no happy, "we-are-the-world" ending here. Sometimes, no one
goes home happy.

The Baby Dance, directed by Jodie Foster, will debut
Aug. 23 at 9 p.m.

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