What to Expect, by Sarah Brinks
Expecting is an apt title for this film, because I kept expecting it to do something interesting. Sadly it never did. Also from the title you can glean that it is about a pregnancy, but really it isn’t. Expecting doesn’t seem to even respect the fact that the miracle of life is more interesting then yuppy-hipsters with problems. Expecting is another spectacular entrant into the “middle-class thirty-somethings with problems” film genre.
Radha Mitchell and Jon Dore play Lizzie and Peter, a married couple who are trying to get pregnant. They have been trying the old fashioned way and alternative options but still have had no luck. The movie goes to great lengths to explain to us over and over again that Lizzie wants to be a mom. Then Lizzie’s best (and maybe only) friend Andie hooks up with a stranger at a bar she finds herself pregnant, and she knows just who to give it to. Lizzie and Peter finally agree to it, so Andie moves in with them. If you ask me that set up has enough drama in it, but the addition of a recovering-drug-addict brother and serious financial concerns for Lizzie and Peter feels over-stuffed.
Overall, I was really underwhelmed by the performances in the film, with one exception. Michael Weston plays Casey, the aforementioned drug addict, who gets out of rehab for the fourth time in the first act of the film. Weston finds the right tone for Casey without falling into the over dramatic vein that the rest of the characters do in the film. Casey is the easiest character to play over the top but Weston goes the other way with him. Casey is pretty understated for the most part but speaks his mind when the occasion calls for it. He also acts as the comic relief from time to time, and delivers. Mitchell and Dore aren’t bad, but they are hampered by bad writing and characters who are really kind of awful and unlikable. I was surprised by how much I did not enjoy Michelle Monaghan; Andie is loud, crass, and inconsiderate. To her credit she is a fierce friend, but she is also a leach. Lizzie and Andie have been friends since childhood and her choice to give Lizzie her baby is a difficult one, but she feels so manufactured. Maybe if she had been played by someone who I could accept as a crass, selfish jerk then it would have been easier. However, you are stuck watching this awful dialogue come out of Monaghan’s mouth and it wreaks of falseness.
I have to give credit to the dog that plays Joyce. Not only was she adorable but she gave a really good performance for a dog. Also Mimi Kennedy plays Lizzie and Peter’s therapist. She is only in three scenes, but she is a delight every moment she is on screen and brings several of the few moments of real levity to this surprisingly downer film. I liked that the film captured an example of a real female relationship. Even though I never bought Monaghan as Andie, I did buy Lizzie and Andie as friends. I know women who have friendships like that and it usually does get messy like it does in the film. Andie really is a vampire who sucks Lizzie dry but Lizzie lets her and Peter also never stops it either. It was interesting to see a dynamic like that on screen.
In the end, the film has a predictable if not effective ending. This is writer/director Jessie McCormack’s first feature-length effort and I think she has potential. There was nothing flashy about the filmmaking but it was serviceable for the story she was telling. Forgive the pun, but if you watch Expecting, keep your expectations low.