'Infinity Baby': Film Review | SXSW 2017
Bob Byington's latest dry comedy watches Kieran Culkin as he refuses to grow up.
"My brother said his life meant nothing until he had his baby," says the young woman onscreen. So despite having little interest in kids herself, the woman signed up to care for an Infinity Baby — a biological byproduct of stem-cell testing that will never grow up, will never cry and only needs one feeding/diaper change a week. So goes the conceit of Bob Byington's odd skewering of commitment-phobia, which turns Onur Tukel's screenplay into a film very much in line with his own writer/director output. Funny but as undercooked as its namesake infants, the sketchy picture will play well to Byington's fans but tempt few distributors, despite the presence of some reliable comic talent in the cast.
Longtime collaborator Nick Offerman plays Neo, the entrepreneur behind the Infinity Baby. But his young employee Ben (Kieran Culkin) is the real protagonist, whose unwillingness to commit in relationships provides an alternate meaning for the pic's title. Whenever he has dated a woman for a few months and grown bored, he introduces her to his mother (Megan Mullally) — a harsh critic who always finds things to dislike, thus ending the affair.
Ben oversees some of Neo's ground forces, like one pair (Kevin Corrigan and Martin Starr, a slacker team peddling dry banter) who decide to care for one of the babies themselves. That goes poorly. But the eponymous cooing kids are really a MacGuffin, providing sidelong commentary on Ben's emotional development, or lack thereof. As we watch Ben's callow treatment of his latest girlfriend, Trieste Kelly Dunn's seemingly ideal Allison, Culkin doesn't walk the line between annoyance and amusement as nimbly as Jason Schwartzman did in Byington's last film, 7 Chinese Brothers.
Granted, the movie doesn't seem to want him to win us over. But in the absence of some reason to care about Ben's future happiness, the slightness of Tukel's script is harder to forgive — and this featurette (which only passes the 70-minute mark by pasting some outtakes in after the credits) looks like a holding pattern in a career that often threatens to attract attention beyond the festival circuit but hasn't yet managed to do so.
Production companies: Faliro House Productions, Happyness Films
Cast: Kieran Culkin, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Nick Offerman, Martin Starr, Kevin Corrigan, Megan Mullally, Noel Wells, Stephen Root
Director: Bob Byington
Screenwriter: Onur Tukel
Producers: Barry Lacina, Christos Konstantakopoulos, Veronica Leon, Rebecca Eskreis, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman
Director of photography: Matthias Grunsky
Production designer: Jake Kuykendall
Costume designer: Olivia Mori
Editor: Kris Boustedt
Composer: Aesop Rock
Venue: South by Southwest (Visions)