Fresh off its 6 Oscar nominations, “American Sniper” went to wide release this weekend, and with it came widely polarized responses. Where many of hits fans have hailed it as a tribute to soldiers, its detractors have criticized its encouragement of American bloodlust (seen on some of the worst Twitter updates) and minimization of Chris Kyle’s own rampant Islamophobia. Others still think Eastwood is getting at something a bit more complicated than a simple pro or anti-war statement with a film about how, to quote his masterpiece “Unforgiven,” it’s “a hell of a thing to kill a man,” and how killing affects men without them even knowing.
For all of the highly negative and highly positive reactions, though, one thing’s for sure: “American Sniper’s” fake baby is really, really bad. Drew McWeeny of HitFix was the first person to write about it way back in December, calling it “distracting” and “creepy.” Now that the film is in wide release, though, more people have a chance to see it in all of its glory. This week saw at least five non-review pieces mocking the plastic doll that Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller cradle during some of the domestic scenes in the film (sometimes moving the baby’s arm for it).
Pajiba’s Dustin Rowles criticized the choice, comparing it to the memorably awful fake baby from “Dexter.” The Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, published the first thorough coverage of the bizarre choice, writing that screenwriter Jason Dean Hall gave an explanation as to why they didn’t just get a real baby:
According to “American Sniper” screenwriter/executive producer Jason Hall, there’s actually a good explanation as to why fake babies were used on the film. In response to journalist Mark Harris‘ tweet “That plastic baby in American Sniper is going to be rationalized by Eastwood auteur cultists until the end of days,” Hall replied: “hate to ruin the fun but real baby #1 showed up with a fever. Real baby #2 was no show. (Clint voice) Gimme the doll, kid.”
The Telegraph‘s Alice Vincent also noted the restrictions placed on filming babies in California:
There are restrictions on filming babies. In California, where shooting for “American Sniper” took place, infants must be at least 15 days old and have a work permit and a doctor’s note to start working. Day rate can range from around $150 to nearer $800, depending on whether the baby is a background or principal actor, and infants under six months can’t work for longer than 20 minutes per day. Then there’s the obligatory nurse, studio teacher and parent to be accommodated for.
The New York Times’ Cara Buckley, writing for their awards season blog The Carpetbagger, jumped on board this morning, including FakeBabygate in her round-up of “American Sniper” controversies that came over the past weekend:
Yet another aspect of the film also garnered attention: the distractingly fake baby that shows up in a scene between Bradley Cooper, who plays Mr. Kyle, and his wife, played by Sienna Miller. Drew McWeeny at HitFix was among the early critics to point out the baby – not as bad as the one from “Trainspotting,” but close.
— CutPrintFilm (@cutprintfilm) December 31, 2014