October Baby is like three movies shoved into one. It’s a romance, a spring break movie, and the story of a young woman who finds out she was adopted after an attempted abortion. More of a focus is on the latter, but the film may have been a whole lot better with a little more of either of the former.
There are a lot of themes in the film that are about growing up as well as the choices people make that define who they become. In particular, scenes between newcomer actress Rachel Hendrix, who plays Hannah, and John Schneider, who plays her adoptive father, really resonate. There’s a lot of pain in many of their scenes, but an underlying tenderness and deep care for one another as the two are forced to forge new bonds after Hannah learns about her past.
There are a lot of broken moments and relationships that need a little fixing in October Baby, and, in many instances, this slows down the plot. Hannah’s in love with her best friend Jason (Jason Burkey), but despite his girlfriend being a total headcase, he just keeps dating her. Since Hannah isn’t aware at first of her unusual birth story, there are several random family and doctor scenes thrown in to address the “facts”. Finally, once Hannah finds the emotional fortitude to search for her mother, there are a lot of filler scenes leading up to the climactic moment.
To attempt to lighten the mood, Andrew and John Erwin throw in some comedic relief featuring American Idol’s Chris Sligh as an over-the-top automobile owner without a filter and James Austin Johnson as his hapless sidekick. He and the rest of a spring break crew are heading toward the town where Hannah’s birth mom supposedly lives and thus, extend a spot for her in their journey. Lively conversations from topics as diverse as tofu and the ramifications of drinking fill up the time Hannah spends with the goofball vacationers. I would have been content to watch these characters for a couple of hours.
Instead, the movie shoehorns away from its initial direction in order to spend more time with Hannah as she constantly verbalizes her mental issues. Yeah, Hendrix is good at playing Hannah, but watching a teen in crisis mope for most of an hour and a half can be a little much. If October Baby had cut down on the melodrama, not only from Hannah, but from some of the other characters, too, the film may have come across as a way more careful endeavor.
Because October Baby relishes in some of its most melodramatic moments, it’s harder to let some of the smaller issues slide. October Baby has some trouble figuring out the script’s direction and features some scenes where the background music overwhelms whatever is going on visually onscreen. These things might normally be forgotten in a more investing film, but they just keep on nagging in this one.
October Baby works best when Hannah is simply hanging out with people and learning to be a regular teenager. In the spring break moments and the time she spends with Jason, she is a more compelling college student working her way through some unusual hardships. In those moments, it’s easy to forget all of the political and emotional messages the story is trying to send out to its viewers and to just relish in a teen making her way in the universe the best she can. October Baby needed the whole “survivor of an abortion” idea to gain as much traction as it did, but it could have been better if it gave us a reason to really invest in the story and not simply sympathize with its heroine.
Usually the bonus features don’t lead off with the bloopers, but October Baby was smart enough to let it happen. “October Bloopers” are way better than the average bloopers on a disc. Actually, I’ll go so far as to say these are the best bloopers I’ve ever seen. These guys generally seem like they were up for anything and really had fun shooting on the set. Next, there are some deleted scenes, which mostly help to clarify stuff and add details to the plot, however, cutting most of these scenes seems to have somewhat streamlined the movie and cut out some of the unnecessary side plots.
The next segments, “Finding Hannah” and “Shari’s Story,” focus on some of the casting decisions and the way the actors who played Hannah and her birth mother were able to come to life onscreen. These, as well as the story behind the script, “Gianna Jessen: The Inspiration,“ help viewers to understand the intent and direction of the film.
“Singing the Praises of October Baby” follows a slew of musicians, producers, and even Fireproof director Alex Kendrick as they show up to talk about what they loved about the film. A few people talk about how nice the film was and how it took a totally unique plot and turned it into a great film. It’s a little indulgent, but if you liked the movie a lot, you’ll probably find a viewpoint or two to agree with, which is what October Baby is shooting for, anyway.
The last few segments aren’t throwaways, but they are less exciting than the other bonus features on the disc. A Q&A, a short artsy segment and the “Life is Beautiful” music video by The Afters (a band I am guessing has scuttled from bad name to bad name during the tenure of its existence) round out the special features. There are way more extras on this disc than your average low budget film and most of them are enjoyable. It isn’t perfect, but I was suitably impressed with the quality.