Located in a near future version of Austin, Texas, infinite baby builds on a simple premise that you may be able to gather from the title. Let Uncle Neo (played by a wonderfully dry and bearded Nick Offerman) explain.
“When abortion was made illegal at the federal level, Congress passed stem cell laws to placate the left — the Republicans said, ‘You give us abortion, we give the Dems stem cell research,’” he says in what appears to be. a business promotion video. “It allowed pharmaceutical giants like our parent company (Audio Edited) to continue genetic experimentation.”
Company X did just that, and it soon stumbled upon a genetic defect that prevents aging. This condition now affects about 1,000 babies, so – as is the American way – Company X started a subsidiary to find paying homes for these perpetual babies. Today, Neo serves as the CEO of this new venture called Infinity Baby. The prized offering comes in at a lucrative $20,000 per sale.
In keeping with the era, Infinity Baby also fits into the modern convenience and subscription economies. All babies come with a manual, which essentially boils down to two steps to success. Give your baby constipation pills weekly to limit bowel movements to once a week, and give your baby a food pill once a week to keep the blood flowing. Maintaining this regimen is simply a matter of regularly ordering and administering medications, and proud paying parents will forever have a small family addition.
“The great thing about America is that you’re entitled to your opinion,” salesperson Malcolm tells a neurotic customer. “… and that you don’t have to be mentally stable to work with children.”
Debuting at SXSW and most recently showing at the Seattle International Film Festival, infinite baby contains clear potential to comment on many current major entities such as startup culture, genetic experimentation, or the luxury goods economy (and its image/status obsessed clientele). But through its specific brand of fearless and grim satire, this film has a more timeless target in its sights instead.
infinite baby primarily follows the follies of three Infinity Baby employees: manager Ben and two of his salespeople, Malcolm and Larry.
Late 20s/early 30s Ben (Kieran Culkin) kisses both professionally and personally. At work, he takes an extremely hands-off attitude, buoyed by the knowledge that his family runs the joint. Outside of work, Ben turns out to be a constant/serial online dater who can’t seem to find his perfect match. He prefers to float from a ‘flawed’ relationship to a faulty relationship with as little effort and friction as possible.
After subjecting a woman to his disdainful mother (Megan Mullally) to speed up the endgame, Ben tries to work the rift quickly and emotionlessly. “There’s no need to take a pejorative attitude, we’ve had three good months,” he says to console her. “It’s okay – there are other races, other horses to ride.”
Slightly older couple Malcolm (Martin Starr) and Larry (Kevin Corrigan) seem to be at Infinity Baby for the easy salary, not for his genetic exploration or family building. Larry, a chubby, nonchalant alcoholic with a penchant for being rude, generally pulls the strings between the two, although Malcolm, bald and naive, takes a more serious attitude to work, be it for work. or for their relationship.
After Larry gets the bright idea to scam their employer by having a baby one day, he likens diaper change to war agony, and persuades Malcolm to volunteer for such duties. “Okay, let’s have a drink to celebrate,” says Malcolm. “But let’s do it responsibly, because we’re parents now.”
“You can drink as responsibly as you want,” Larry replies. “But I’m getting a shit face.”
The humor in infinite baby quickly dries and darkens and stays dry and dark. It won’t appeal to everyone, but a certain type of viewer will appreciate director Bob Byington’s many moments of sheer absurdity. While giving birth to a baby, a woman remarks that she didn’t even want the thing, but her brother signed her up simply because he thinks she’s cold. “Well, my uncle Tony had hemorrhoids and then he got a dog,” says Malcolm. “He still had hemorrhoids. But if a dog can reduce the flare-up of hemorrhoids, imagine what a baby could do?”
Or later, when faced with the possibility that an Infinity Baby was killed before delivery, Neo dismisses the situation as the simple cost of doing business. “Oh and what,” he remarks. “Sometimes to get rich you have to kill a few babies. My old friend Dick Cheney, formerly of Halliburton, taught me that… you like Kombucha?’ (Don’t worry — the lone woman in a multi-man conference room just picks up the baby and hugs him tightly, noting that he was just sleeping.)
If the dialogue doesn’t give it away, the film has an indie/mumblecore-esque aesthetic. People who have actually visited Austin in real life can see a few locations along Town Lake as if this were a work by Terrence Malick (although Director of Photography Matthias Grunsky keeps all images in a timeless black and white). Aesop Rock provides the score; the pace remains casual throughout.
And delightfully, the script indulges its audience with meta-commentary from time to time. Characters late in the film have bits of dialogue about flawed characters who never change or karma as a cruel mistress (“I have a terrible feeling that being selfish and irresponsible is not a good thing,” Larry notes). Without spoiling anything infinite baby‘s surprises and twists, characters that you find annoying or disgusting, generally get theirs to some extent.
Not about avocado
In the course of infinite baby‘s tight 70-minute runtime, Ben reveals himself as the best candidate to personify the title. But who specifically does he stand for as Byington’s? infinite baby? Seeing millennials as perpetually inept children feels just as ridiculous as the idea that avocado toast keeps people from financial solvency. By now we know that rising student debt comes with stagnating wages and a whole host of other things to relatively reduce home ownership, postpone engagements and generally come together to cause things that people write half-baked ideas about.
However, it seems comical to think of a certain type of inadequate grown man with privileges as an eternal baby. Ben clearly loves professional favoritism and family money, and he shows a total inability to be candid with others, to engage in difficult conversations of any degree, or to grow in any meaningful way. His quick personality biography applies to an endless number of celebrities, politicians or CEOs who regularly appear in today’s headlines.
In this light, infinite baby essentially works best as a character study for the type of over-the-top blowhard normally thrown into a supporting role, as if Silicone Valley‘s Erlich Bachman or maybe Communities Pierce starred in a perverted sitcom. Seeing Ben in this line only boosts his level of sucking… which makes watching his dark comedic demise a lot of fun for a certain breed of comedy fans (including at least one avocado-enjoying millennial man).
List image by Matthias Grunsky, Director of Photography