Sebastien Silva’s sixth feature-length effort Nasty
Starring alongside Tunde Adebimpe and Kristen Wiig, Silva has crafted a multifaceted comedrama that coyly flirts with a number of themes and societal issues asking lots of questions but not providing much in the way of answers. Indeed Silva has stated that he himself doesn’t quite understand what he has created, but nevertheless this is the spawn of a prodigious imagination and although flawed makes for very enjoyable watching.
Silva plays Freddy, a charismatic New Yorker trying to progress in his chosen vocation as a video artist. Freddy and his boyfriend Mo (Abebimpe) are attempting to have a child, in vitro, with Freddy’s best friend Polly (Wiig) but unfortunately Freddy doesn’t have the sperm count to seal the deal. Freddy’s desire to become a father permeates his artwork and babies feature prominently in his upcoming installation piece (also entitled Nasty Baby) wherein he and his friends regress to an infantile state – Abebimpe and Wiig writhing about on the floor babbling incoherently had the audience roaring.
This is a hugely personal and self-deprecating project for Freddy one which in some ways, he hopes, will alleviate the pain of not being able to impregnate Polly. On top of this, the three begin to be harassed by an abrasive neighbour known only as The Bishop, a seemingly harmless but mentally unstable character (Reg E. Cathey) who starts running his leaf blower at all hours of the day and accosting Polly on the street.
The three main characters are extremely well written and the on-screen connection between Silva, Wiig and Abepimoe is a joy to watch, all of whom provide immensely charming performances. Silva’s improvisatory approach to the script suits Wiig tremendously who seems truly at home in the relaxed bohemian atmosphere Silva has created (it is also worth noting that the film is shot in Silva’s New York apartment and features his own cat).
The succession of skilfully observed scenes, simultaneously funny and embarrassing, in the first two acts contain the sort of off-kilter humour and quotidian charm of Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, whilst raising issues of parenthood and the complexities of three people having a baby. You subsequently warm to these characters and want to spend more time with them and see them succeed. However, the film’s shocking tonal shift in the final act turns all of this on its head and although presents an interesting exercise in audience manipulation, feels ill-disciplined and tacked on to an otherwise deft slice-of-life comedy about modern lifestyles. It’s a bizarre decision and one that will certainly polarize audiences.
Nonetheless, Nasty Baby is a clever and thought provoking drama and although Silva’s moral and socio-political quandaries don’t all mesh into one cohesive whole, this is a bold and admirable attempt by a visionary director who is well worth looking out for in the future.