Casa De Los Babys

on September 19, 2003 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
A group of American women bond as they await delivery of babies they are adopting in an unnamed Latin American country in John Sayles' sensitive but uneven and unsatisfying drama. Stuck in a cheap hotel, nicknamed by its staff Casa de Los Babys, the women come across as typically self-absorbed Westerners, albeit with significant personality differences. They include a born-again Christian (Mary Steenburgen) desperate for a child; a young woman (Maggie Gyllenhall) hoping adoption will save her troubled marriage; a mysterious wealthy woman (Marcia Gay Harden) with significant personal problems; and a tough-talking New Yorker (Lili Taylor) who just doesn't want to get pregnant. Over a couple of days, they banter, fight and slowly reveal their innermost secrets and desires. Like all of Sayles' movies ("City of Hope," "Sunshine State"), "Casa de Los Babys" is thoughtful and smart, but it's still one of his lesser, emotionally flatter efforts. Though it clocks in at a short (for him) 96 minutes, it nevertheless feels cluttered, as Sayles insists on adding extraneous stories of the locals the Americans come across. Those subplots, notably one revolving around an unemployed man dying to move to America, belong to another movie and, for the most part, only slow the proceedings down.

As usual, Sayles draws strong performances out of his cast, in particular the always riveting Gyllenhall ("Secretary") and Susan Lynch as an Irish emigrant attempting to recapture her happy childhood. He also offers up some moving scenes, including a devastating one in which Lynch and a hotel maid talk, at cross purposes, about their dreams and fears. Its high points notwithstanding, "Casa de Los Babys" generally fails to make a lasting impression. Starring Lili Taylor, Marcia Gay Harden, Maggie Gyllenhall and Mary Steenburgen. Directed and written by John Sayles. Produced by Alejandro Springall and Lemore Syvan. An IFC release. Drama. English- and Spanish-language; subtitled. Running time: 96 min

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