How a 'shower vision' inspired the pregnancy candor of SXSW sensation 'Babes'

Following the rough-and-tumble “Road House” screening on Friday, the SXSW programming team switched it up Saturday with the world premiere of the uproarious and earnest “Babes.” The film is the feature directing debut for Pamela Adlon, coming off her own celebrated series “Better Things,” and is produced and co-written by “Broad City’s” Ilana Glazer, who stars.

In the film, which Neon is releasing later in the spring, Glazer plays Eden, who becomes pregnant from a brief but intense fling and decides to raise the baby on her own. In the course of her pregnancy, she leans on her longtime best friend Dawn (Michelle Buteau), who is married with two young kids of her own.

At times, the movie has the same anything-goes, out-there sensibility as “Broad City,” but is grounded in the realities of pregnancy — in all its beauty and biological grossness — in ways few films have done before. It all plays as a mix of affectionate sweetness and uninhibited candor.

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For the Q&A after the SXSW screening, Glazer, Adlon and Buteau took the stage with co-writer and producer Josh Rabinowitz, who also has a brief cameo as a waiter trying to figure out what to do as Buteau's character goes into labor at his table.

Glazer said that fellow producer Susie Fox — also with two small children at the time when both Glazer and Rabinowitz’s wife were pregnant — had a “shower vision” of the movie.

“And then we found that we were really interested in how it changed our friendships,” said Glazer. “That was like the way we started organizing all the ideas.”

Adlon joked she got involved in the project when "Better Things" was concluded. "I was done or it was canceled — I was done,” she said.

Adlon noted she wanted her own children to watch the film. “This movie is for all ages," she said. "I know we’re in Texas, but Texas is big.”

She added she was attracted to the film’s exploration of friendship. “Somebody gets a partner and somebody gets a kid and maybe another kid and somebody doesn't have that yet," Adlon said. "And I love when [Glazer's character] says, ‘Best friends get so f— over in real life’ and that's such a real thing.”

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Buteau recently saw her own series, “Survival of the Thickest,” renewed for a second season on Netflix. Buteau said collaborating with both Adlon and Glazer “felt like Beyonce and Usher at a Super Bowl: set up for success.”

Adlon addressed the mix of body humor and emotional nuance in the film.

“Well, it's raw,” said Adlon. “You see all of this raw stuff in men's comedies and we weren't trying to be salacious. Look, we could do what the” — and here she grabbed her crotch — “what guys do, but it's really important because we laugh so much as women, and as mothers, it can be so dark and scary. And as women, your doctors don't really share with you what you're going through. It's such a beautiful thing — it makes me want to cry. That's women's friendships. That's real.”

A question from the audience asked for any advice for stand-up comedians just starting their careers.

“How much time do we have? We're gonna run a workshop,” said Buteau, before following with some actual tips. “Don't tell yourself no before someone else tells you no. Keep writing. Get very comfortable with rejection. If you do something in a room and someone chuckles, that could be a laugh somewhere else. And don't compare yourself to somebody else's journey because you're going to get nowhere. You're only in competition with yourself. Are you writing this down?”

Glazer said, “I need those notes.”

Another audience question asked Adlon where she found her inspiration to exploreing intimacy and the female experience.

“I love human interaction,” said Adlon. “I love dark edgy things, but it's got to have a heart. I like to really push the envelope and I like people to feel uncomfortable and then to just release everybody with just heart and hope and a big feeling. It's all in transitions and human interactions and that's the way I see things. I'm so happy you guys all came out and we really love the movie and are so grateful.”

Turning to SXSW festival chief Claudette Godfrey, who was moderating the Q&A, Adlon added, “I was trying to wrap it up for you.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.