“Life is something you do when you can’t get to sleep.” – Fran Lebowtiz
Growing up has never been an easy thing to do. Surviving the trials and tribulations of school is bad enough but then you have to deal with the real world full of responsibilities, work, bills. Finding your place can be difficult.
Jake Briggs (Kevin Bacon) is in that situation. He is preparing to marry his high school sweetheart Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern). Being equally excited and petrified he confides his fears to his best friend (and best man) Davis (Alec Baldwin in one of his best roles). Pushing his fear aside, he gets married and begins the new chapter of his life.
After dropping out of graduate school, Jake and Kristy move to John Hughes’ favourite location of Chicago. Unwilling to become another ‘stay at home wife’ Kristy starts her corporate career while Jake talks his way into a copywriter position at a local advertising agency. Along with the adult jobs come a mortgage, the purchase of a lawnmower and pressures from both sides of the family as to when they are going to have a baby.
While Kristy seems to function well in this ‘adult’ world, Jake has issues. He feels that he wants more and having a baby isn’t part of that, but after a few years into the marriage, Kristy has other ideas and, unbeknownst to Jake, stops taking the pill and waits for nature to take its course. Three months later, however, he does find out and to top off his doubts and feelings of unfulfilled ambition, he discovers he has a low sperm count. Alongside all this, Davis is constantly rubbing his face into the fact he is still young, free and single and enjoying life as it comes.
As the title of the film slightly gives away, Kristy does become pregnant and when a complicated birth puts his wife and unborn child’s lives in danger, Jake finally realises what he wants is what he had the entire time.
Taking another huge step away from his staple of teen drama and comedy, Hughes puts together a sweet and thoughtful film about how hard becoming an adult is. Told through the eyes of Jake, it proves that ‘Happy Ever After’ isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be. It is also his most personal film, being loosely based on his own experiences of being a young husband and father.
Bacon and McGovern work well as the wide-eyed newlyweds who are thrown into the deep end of life when their peers are still acting in the same vein. Jake’s not so much refusal but resistance to becoming a grown-up is wonderfully played out, from his obsession with the girl that could have been to his imagination of the lawnmower dance number (which ranks as one of my favourite parts of the movie).
Jake could have been an unlikeable character. After all, he does seem to want to be running away from his responsibilities, but Hughes manages to walk that fine line. Along with the drama there are some fine comedy moments and if you sit through the credits there is a who’s who of 80s Paramount stars, all of whom have ideas on what to call the baby of the piece.
Hughes next shot in the director’s seat takes another turn towards a more family-orientated comedy. Next time we will be looking forward to a visit from Uncle Buck.