I nominate My Fake Baby for Best Documentary of the Year.
It's the story of two women whose devotion to their "reborn babies" totally transcends the ridiculous. Reborn babies are ultra-realistic dolls that can mimic breathing, warmth, wriggling and heartbeats, and there's a growing British fanbase. Accordingly then this documentary is hilarious, but also so painful in its desperation that it strikes an unusual dramatic chord. When one woman presents her husband with her first Reborn acquisition -- a doll made to resemble their grandson in minute detail -- she is met with a reaction of slight concern and repulsion. Her guttural cries indicate she was expecting her husband to be just as passionate as one would be in welcoming a newborn into the family. Her actual grandchild is wise enough to set her straight, "That's a doll, you numbnuts!"
If only Christopher Guest's troupe had made this. The offbeat characters and delusional worldviews would have people rolling in the aisles just as this had me rolling in my computer chair... The only difference here is that these folks are real and so that laughter is tinged with equal parts dread and pity. There are apparently hundreds of grown British women who've taken to playing house with a hunk of finely detailed plastic. Basically it's brilliant (subtly devastating) comedy gold!
Watch it here:
First there's our reborn baby creator, Jamie, a single mom who took up the odd hobby after hunting for a realistic doll for her daughter. She skillfully paints individual veins, birthmarks, facial scratches, the works! Jamie's at the top of her craft; the Michelangelo of reborns. He used canvas whereas Jamie puts baby parts in her oven.
Jamie strolls up and down her local grocer with an empty cart, bumping into the customers, "Excuse me, would you like to buy a baby?... Come here every week and sell me babies." Watch as their utter joy melts into a shudder.
Jamie seems like a mostly stable woman who's great at what she does, and has found a ripe market in the questionably sane. It's also comforting that her daughters seem in on the joke. Yet another case of a child having significantly more sense than these adults.
Which brings us to the customer base:
Left: Sue is a woman overcome by a maternal instinct but with no desire for fussing and cleanup. Still, she individually washes the wheels on her pram (a creepier-sounding British stroller), bathes and even combs the hair of her four reborn daughters. Sue also travels to America for their "adoptions."
Right: Christina is a woman so overcome by sadness upon her grandson moving away that she replaces him with a doll replica.
Daily reminders that you're baby is actually a doll:
1) Those expensive designer bottle holders you bought are actually filled with laundry fluid, for the realistic appearance of actual milk.
2) The delivery of your baby required cardboard, packaging tape, and that reliable UPS service.
3) If your baby flies out of the car seat or loses its head, there's always a replacement online.
4) Sightseeing with your baby turns YOU into the main attraction.
With the reborn in one of her many designer prams (with detachable parasol), Sue wants to stand out on the playground. So much scary in a single image!
Sue says she's not delusional. "They're perhaps embarrassed for me because I am, perhaps, pushing a doll in a pram. But for me I don't see it like that, " she insists. "I don't see her as a baby, any of my girls. I don't see them as real babies. I know they're real dolls, I'm under no illusion. But it's just where I haven't got children, I guess there is still that female instinct in me."
The husbands are doing their best to remain supportive and oblivious. Sue's husband Terry doesn't even flinch when asked to pose in a family photo.
Of course Sue realizes why she prefers these dolls to real children, "Never grows out of her clothes, never soils them. It's just fabulous. The only difference is of course these guys don't move." Well I'm convinced it's for the best, not just because of the child's impending psychotic break, but also because of those nails!
Terry explains their lack of real kids: "The story behind that is when we was young, we decided that we would enjoy ourselves when we were young and have children later. But it's never stopped -- enjoying it. It's just we've had the holidays."
Sue elaborates, "It's too much commitment and I can't stand the noise, and I'm just so fussy really. If I could pick a child off the shelf, that would be wonderful because I could say, 'Yeah, I want one that's quiet and well behaved, and one that keeps clean.'"
The one Sue claws off the shelf is your "Average Creepy Baby":
There's also your "Ugly Baby":
The one on the right looks like Michael Keaton.
And my personal favorite: "Had a Hard Life Baby." She looks like she went from birth right into retirement.
Emmy voters where are you? Give My Fake Baby some love! If not for me, do it for the reborns and the reborns after them.