Despite claims that she wanted to portray “real friendships” between women, writer/director Jessie McCormack has created such a mess that it serves as the epitome of the term “chick flick” when used as a pejorative.
The plot—such as it is—revolves around pregnancy… (JLH: 2/5)
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“Andie” (Michelle Monaghan) & “Lizzie” (Radha Mitchell) are BFFs.
Lizzie, who is married, wants to have a baby. At the beginning of Expecting, Lizzie is trying to convince her husband “Peter” (Jon Dore) to invest in another round of In Vitro Fertilization, even though they have already tried to conceive a child via IVF several times already without success.
Andie–a party-hearty gal who seems to have no attachments to anyone save Lizzie–suddenly realizes she’s pregnant. What to do? Isn’t it obvious? “I want to do this for you,” says Andie to Lizzie. Peter is dumbfounded. “What about the father? Doesn’t he get a say in this?,” Peter asks. Not to worry, replies Lizzie: “Andie has no way to reach him. She doesn’t even know his last name.” Well, that’s a comfort!
So Andie moves in with Lizzie, Peter, & their dog “Joyce” (a lovable lug with bowel problems). But before you can say “adoption,” the house gets a 5th occupant. “Casey” (Michael Weston) is Peter’s brother. He is just about to be released from Rehab & Peter doesn’t want him to be alone. What to do? Isn’t it obvious? Lizzie is dumbfounded. “Doesn’t he have any friends he can stay with,” she asks. “All of his friends are drug addicts,” Peter replies. Well, that’s a comfort!
Everything is laid out just so, without any attempt to provide characters with coherent backstories. Andie & Lizzie don’t feel like a fit as friends; Lizzie & Peter don’t feel like a fit as a couple; Peter & Casey don’t feel like a fit as brothers. They are all as inanimate as four parallel pieces on over-determined game board.
Again and again, Lizzie asks Peter to please fix the front gate. Again and again, Peter promises he will fix the front gate “tomorrow.” Waiting for Joyce to go through the broken gate and disappear into the unknown is what constitutes “suspense” in Expecting. Everything else runs like clockwork.
The only spark of life in Expecting comes from Mimi Kennedy, who plays sassy therapist “Dr. Grayson.” In the beginning, only Lizzie & Peter see Dr. Grayson, but by the end, Andie, Casey, Lizzie & Peter are all in her office together–in one session. The whole set up is so preposterous that Dr. Grayson can’t keep from laughing at them. What a relief! Kennedy gives us permission to laugh too, but only when we are with her in her office. The rest of the time Andie, Casey, Lizzie & Peter are so earnest that the only appropriate response is to avert one’s eyes.
The sad thing is that McCormack has cast talented actors who might have served her well if she only had known what to do with them. Australian Radha Mitchell showed the makings of a great actress in Lisa Cholodenko’s High Art (her American debut way back in 1998). So seeing her play a character like Lizzie is a real disappointment to someone like me (who has rooted for her all these years). Michelle Monaghan, who is “pretty” in a more conventional way, is usually cast as a girl friend rather than a lead. But Andie has so little substance it’s hard to care about this supposed “stretch” in her career either.
The thing that most bugs me about Expecting, tho, is it’s blasé attitude about money. Peter has a couple of real estate clients & Lizzie has one kid she tutors in French, but otherwise none of these people have jobs. And yet, Peter and Lizzie live in a large home in LA, where they serve their guests grilled steak at a table by the pool. They seem to have enough money to pay for IVF (not to mention sessions with Dr. Grayson), but where does their money come from? Apparently Andie has a rich father. Is he so rich that he simply bankrolls all of this whenever his daughter & her friends run short of ready cash?!? Oy!!!
If McCormack intends to portray “real friendships” between women, then I suggest she try walking a mile in the shoes of some folks who live on Planet Earth first.
Top Photo: Andie wants to shoot herself in the head during a session with Dr. Grayson? Well so would I in her position!
Bottom Photo: Can you find “the couple” in this impromptu Couples Therapy session? From left: Michael Weston as “Casey,” Michelle Monaghan as “Andie,” Radha Mitchell as “Lizzie,” and Jon Dore as “Peter.”
Expecting Photo Credits: Erica Parise
Middle Photo: Mimi Kennedy in her best-know role as “Abby O’Neil Finkelstein” on the TV show Dharma & Greg.