(out of 5)
Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman are New York singletons who have been best friends for years, one of his many failed attempts at a relationship in his life. When she announces that she is tired of looking for the right man and has decided to have a child by artificial insemination, he reacts with strong disapproval but, as her very best friend in the world, attends her “fertilization” party anyway. There he indulges in some boozing and psychotropic substances and, in an unfortunate mishap while under the influence, accidentally dumps the sperm sample from Aniston’s hand-picked donor (Patrick Wilson) down the drain and, in order to avoid being caught, replaces it with his own. Aniston moves back to Minnesota to raise her child in a healthier environment, but seven years later returns thanks to a lucrative job offer and the two are now close again, with one major change: seven year-old Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), a child who looks alarmingly like Bateman and shares his neurotic, hypochondriac tendencies and sour demeanor. It takes a while for our hapless hero to clue in to what’s going on, especially considering that the evening in question that caused this situation was lost in a blurry hangover haze, but once he remembers, he realizes he’s working against the clock: he’s falling madly in love with this child, and Aniston is getting very serious with Wilson, with whom she has reconnected. This adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ short story Baster is a surprisingly deft, charming and poignant tale of love that benefits greatly from Bateman’s exceptional prowess as a leading man. Appropriately rumpled and surly from the get-go, watching him turn from malcontent to devoted father is a pleasure, and it helps that Robinson as the youngster is genuinely appealing and not just manipulatively cute. Aniston holds her own quite well, bringing the usual smart sense of comedy and natural delivery that all her performances display, but it’s Bateman’s show all the way and he’s what gives this film its surprisingly large heart.
Mandate Pictures, Bona Fide Productions, Echo Films
Cinematography by Jess Hall
Music by Alex Wurman
Production Design by Adam Stockhausen
Costume Design by Kasia Walicka-Maimone
Film Editing by John Axelrad