Michelle Monaghan and Radha Mitchell in EXPECTING distributed by Tribeca Film.
“Expecting,” Jessie McCormack’s earnest debut is an attempt at a slice of life character study documenting the complexity
Lizzie and Peter, an upwardly mobile couple have been trying fruitlessly for years to conceive, including several expensive and non-productive bouts of fertility treatments. Peter, a real estate agent, wants to throw in the towel. As a cost/benefit study, further fertility treatments are a non-starter. Lizzie is crushed. Lizzie’s best friend, the irrepressible, immature and promiscuous Andie, is sympathetic to her plight and when, as was bound to happen, Andie finds herself pregnant from an anonymous one-night-stand, she offers her unborn child to Lizzie and Peter. Lizzie, less so Peter, jumps at this opportunity provided that Lizzie will move in with them for the duration of the pregnancy. Her presence within their seemingly stable environment brings a chaos that manages to bring most of their underlying anxieties and dissatisfactions to the surface. Further adding to the complications is the arrival of Peter’s taciturn brother Casey, newly released from rehab and ready to recommence the habits that sent him there, involuntarily, in the first place. With Lizzie preoccupied with Andie and Peter inserting himself in Casey’s turbulent life, previously unspoken conflicts between the couple begin bubbling to the surface like lava in a once dormant volcano.
McCormack has an amiable cast, all of whom have done fine work in the past. Radha Mitchell as Lizzie is one of the most capable of the group, most effectively showing the anxieties and frustrations of a woman who has reached a point in her life where none of her hopes and dreams have come to fruition and the man she thought would provide it all is becoming a major disappointment. Michelle Monaghan has been wonderful in a number of past films, usually playing the concerned ingénue. It’s certainly easy to see why she would have jumped at the chance to play the wild child who grows up but unfortunately she plays it on a one string violin. She is rude and funny and inappropriate until suddenly she isn’t.
John Dore, as Peter, is empathetic at the beginning of the film progressing rapidly to unsympathetic without the necessary development along the way. There are glimmers that he might have been up for the task had McCormack, both as writer and director, given him assistance with a better script and better direction. Michael Weston, Casey, is, perhaps, the strongest in the film, letting us see exactly who this character is, where he’s been and probably how he’s headed down the same path. He represents the conflict necessary to further throw off the balance of the others, but it is just that strength in character, however, that overwhelms the tenuous balance of the film. Mimi Kennedy, Peter and Lizzie’s marriage therapist, was conceivably (yes, the choice of work was deliberate) chosen for her comic touch. She plays a marriage therapist who is supremely bored with her job and insulting to her patients, thus throwing one more sour note into what McCormack had, no doubt, intended as a light comedy with serious undertones.
A film of too many almosts, it is a film whose first release on VOD actually makes sense as it’s unlikely that it will find much of an audience on the big screen. “Expecting” is not a bad movie; it’s just not a very good one. The director’s intentions are clear enough but the execution never reaches the expectation.
Available on VOD and iTunes as of November 26, opening Friday December 6 at the Beverly Hill Music Hall 3.