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I watched this film for the first time in June 2001, towards the end of my
senior year of high school for my Child Development class. After seeing
movie, I did some research on the "Baby M" case, and this movie is about as
accurate as it gets. While most true-account films tend to stray from the
real story, this one was taken directly from the court records of Ocean
County Courthouse, Toms River, Ocean County, New Jersey.
This made-for-TV film is about a couple, William and Elizabeth Stern, a New York City couple who cannot conceive a child, and consult an organizationfor surrogate parents. They soon meet Mary Beth and Rick Whitehead, a Brick Township, Ocean County, New Jersey family with two pre-teen children, Tuesday and Ryan. Mary Beth agrees to carry the Sterns' child and will accept $10,000 in exchange for the baby. Mary Beth assumes she can easily give up the baby, but it becomes impossible for her to let go of the child she names "Sarah," even though the Strerns name her "Melissa." Legal battles ensue over the infant and who she really belongs to.
The reason my teacher showed my class this film was because this case happened to take place close to home for us. I have been living in Ocean County, New Jersey since 1985, and this film took place close to home. Toms River is about 40 minutes from me, and Brick is another 10-15 minutes away from there. The film was shot almost entirely on location in Ocean County, and the trial takes place at our county courthouse. I was living in a town about 20 minutes from Toms River (Lacey Township) at the time this case was happening, so it's almost a given to know about this case, as it is one of the most remembered cases in recent years that I can recall happening so close to home.
The acting in this film was superb, and this movie was extremely upsetting. However, it was also excellent in showing how much goes into a custody trial. It is probably one of the better made-for-TV movies I have seen, and I'm certainly glad I saw it in class. I highly recommend this to anyone if you can possibly find it. This is a heartwarming and toucig story of love for a child, or love that went too far.
I produced "Baby M" and I would just like to respond to the kind comments from Allison L. Venezio: I guess we did what we are supposed to - that is, make people believe - because you thought the movie was shot in Ocean County, NJ. In fact, we shot for nearly 8 weeks in Los Angeles. The Whitehead house was in Van Nuys, and the courthouse was a church in Glendale. We only shot for 2 days in NY and NJ - on 5th Avenue, on the Jersey Turnpike, and in Weekhawken (although, by the time we got there, we'd lost our light and the beautiful NY skyline). I can't rate the movie, but the Television Academy nominated the mini-series for 7 Emmys, including best picture - though we lost. But happily, John Shea won "best actor".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Warning: potential spoilers.
This drama is the story of the Baby M case from the 80's. It is the story of how Mary Beth Whitehead became a surrogate mother to Bill and Betsy Stern. Mary Beth agreed to become artificially inseminated by Bill Stern, carry the child, and once the child was born, to give up that child to Bill and his infertile wife Betsy to raise, for a fee of $10,000.00. The two families signed surrogacy contracts. However once the baby had been born and she asked to see the baby and held it (a fundamental mistake) she decided she could no longer go through with the surrogacy agreement (to give the child to Bill and Betsy to raise). Thus, began a year of kidnapping and court battles, which culminated just after the baby's first birthday. I feel this movie was a success because it gave an account of the facts on BOTH sides. It presented the story in a straight-forward and un-biased manner, showing raw human emotions and the power plays from both sides.
For anyone who enjoys true stories mixed with drama, this is a movie you should enjoy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film drama is factually based on the surrogate birth of what the media and justice system opted to call "Baby M" - The film is set in the 1980's. The surrogate mother in real life was Mary Beth Whitehead, and the receiving parents (who donated US$10k EXPENSES) were Bill and Betsy Stern.
Mary Beth agreed to become artificially inseminated by Bill Stern. Mary Beth, by contract agreed to carry the child, and at the time of birth, give the baby up to the receiving infertile wife Betsy.
All parties signed surrogacy contracts.
BUT - Although as soon as the baby was delivered it was handed to Mary Beth - uh uh - as she held it, you could see in her heart she had decided she was not about to go through with it all.
Then after much emotional wrangling and pleading, Mary Beth was allowed by the Sterns to have the baby for the 'weekend' - this was the begnning of a dash to Florida to M.B.'s family, where a year avoiding and court battles came about, eventaully, after a court order, which culminated in the court order demanding she give up the baby. Mary Beth's husband sneaked off with the baby out of the window, during the commotion.
I hope that's enough spoilers! (and to get you into the film of course) but it does show equally all parties involved in the mess, and warns of the problems that the depth of the human soul can be embroiled.
The above is but the START of the film! - Do give it a chance - I guess we were lucky here in the UK as we get chunks of such films even on commercial channels in half hour slots - we can obviously see that its pieced together from a mini series with fade to blacks.
The film is driven by pure emotion and inner turmoil, it was a success being nominated for many awards - and winning one.
I thought the miniseries "Baby M" told the story of the infamous custody case of Melissa Stern very well! JoBeth Williams captured Mary Beth Whitehead's look and flighty behavior extremely well! I also thought John Shea brought a sensitivity and likability to the somewhat boring Bill Stern. I thought all the other actors were wonderful as well! I thought the baby girls who all portrayed Sara/Melissa were all beautiful and took direction extremely well! I do think they should have shown Melissa's grandparents (Mary Beth's parents) going to court in the hopes of seeing their daughter's child. I was also looking for the actor who was going to play Dean Gould, but one never showed up. Despite these criticisms, I think "Baby M" is one the better child custody miniseries on TV.
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