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TNT's "Baby" is a gentle story that strays from the network's usual macho formula.

Birth of a Chick-Flick


TNT doesn't do a lot of original-production chick flicks. Mostly what it does is hook up with a well-known (or fading) star who has a pet project and offer him or her — usually him — the chance to produce the project and see it air on TNT. If you woke me up in the dark of night and asked me, "Quick: What's TNT's favorite genre for original productions?" I'd have to say, "Westerns."

This is not to say that I know this for a fact. But it's my educated guess after having previewed countless TNT tapes for columns in this space.

But "Baby," TNT's latest, is a chick flick, a departure from the TNT trend, if it is a trend. This time the executive producer is — you guessed it — a woman, Academy Award-nominee Glenn Close ("Fatal Attraction," among many others).

"Baby" marks the fifth time that Close has been involved in bringing a book by Patty MacLachlan to television. Close and MacLachlan began working on the project six years ago. MacLachlan, you may recall, was also the author of the "Sarah, Plain and Tall" stories that were brought to television, with Close as Sarah, by the Hallmark Hall of Fame series.

Although they could have devoted more time to coming up with a better name — "Baby" could be the title of anything from a story about giving birth to a tale about a pouty stripper — the results of their efforts is a remarkably beautiful, slow-moving and tender film about a family that rediscovers itself.

Farrah Fawcett and Keith Carradine play Lily and John Malone who, along with their 12-year-old daughter Larkin (Alison Pill), and John's mother (Jean Stapleton), live in a rambling house on an island off the coast of New England. On the surface, their life appears to be idyllic. Lily is an artist and John is a writer who drinks a bit and likes to tap-dance on the coffee table to the soundtrack of "Singing in the Rain."

But up on a hill not far from the Malones' house is a graveyard with one gravestone that says simply "Baby." And the Malones' seemingly idyllic life masks their grief over the recent loss of their 5-day-old son.

The catalyst that helps the Malones find the way back to the main thread of their lives is another baby, a 1-year-old named Sophie, who is left on their doorstep one late summer morning.

Sophie's presence reopens family wounds that are still healing, but the child also brings a new focus to the family's life and forces them to confront the pain they've been hiding from each other. As with all of MacLachlan's stories, the message is that love and forgiveness are paramount.

Close has done a good job with "Baby." The cast is excellent, the story is told with grace and a touch of humor to leaven the inherent sadness, and cinematographer Ron Garcia has captured well the desolation — and beauty — of the island where the Malones live.

If you're in the mood for a gentle story that unwinds at a leisurely pace, "Baby" — aside from that pesky title — is worth

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