“Expecting” is a sweet comedy with quite a bit of edge as it follows the exploits of married woman Lizzie (Radha Mitchell) who is desperate to have a baby in this lifetime. However, despite several efforts to conceive one with her husband Peter (Jon Dore), she has had no luck. However, an opportunity arises when Lizzie’s best friend, the free-spirited Andie (Michelle Monaghan), tells her she is pregnant after a one-night stand. Instead of getting an abortion, Andie tells Lizzie that she has decided to give this baby to her and Peter once she has it. While Lizzie reacts excitedly to this plan, she soon comes to discover that this pregnancy will not be an easy one to endure, and that’s regardless of the fact that she’s not the one bearing the child.
From that description, “Expecting” sounds like an unofficial remake of the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy “Baby Mama” or like any other pregnancy movie that we have seen a million times before. Granted, this film doesn’t break any new ground, but I still liked it as the story gave us characters that were wonderfully inhabited by the actors who played them.
Once Lizzie and Peter agree to Andie’s proposal, Andie ends up moving in with them so that she won’t have to go through this pregnancy alone. Naturally, this causes a number of conflicts as Andie lacks the filter we all have between the brain and the mouth. She speaks whatever is on her mind and doesn’t realize if she’s offended someone until it’s a little too late.
The real kick I got out of watching “Expecting” was in witnessing Michelle Monaghan’s performance as Andie. I’m not sure I’ve seen her play this kind of role before as I have gotten so used to seeing her portray innocent-like characters in “Mission: Impossible III” and “Due Date” among others, and you can tell she is truly reveling in playing such a wild and uninhibited character here. It’s a tricky character to pull off because Andie could have easily become too abrasive and unlikable for the audience to want to follow, but Monaghan succeeds in finding the right balance to make this character work to everyone’s advantage. While her mouth seems to get the best of her, Lizzie does have a caring heart and it allows Monaghan to give us a truly heartbreaking moment towards the film’s conclusion.
Mitchell is equally good as Andie’s best friend Lizzie as she deals with the endless anxieties of dealing with Andie and her husband who is starting to spend more time with his brother Casey (Michael Weston) who has just gotten out of rehab for the umpteenth time. Her relationships with those closest to her are constantly tested, and like many of us she is suffering from financial hardships which add even more stress to an already stressful life. Mitchell does a terrific job making her character seem refreshingly down to earth to where you empathize with her endlessly even as she threatens to go overboard more often than not.
As for the men in the cast, they both give memorable performances and are fun to watch in roles that seem typical for this kind of film. That’s especially the case with Weston who takes the potentially thankless role of the ne’er do well black sheep of the family, Casey, and breathes life into it to where he avoids a lot of the acting traps a character like this can have. As “Expecting” goes on, Casey proves to be more mature and in control than Peter, and Weston sells us on that by inhabiting the character more than just acting.
Then there’s Dore who plays Peter as a man who thinks he knows what he wants out of life, but who eventually discovers that he has not been honest with himself or others. Dore fills the role nicely and has a number of funny moments, and he makes Peter likable even when he does and says the wrong thing once too often.
But one performance that’s really worth singling out in “Expecting” is the scene-stealing one from Mimi Kennedy as family therapist Dr. Grayson. You may remember her from films like “Pump up the Volume” where she played Christian Slater’s mom, and she is just a comic dynamo here. She ends up playing the kind of therapist we rarely see in films (let alone in real life), a bluntly honest physician who doesn’t hide how she really feels about her patients and who tells them what they need to hear (or so it would seem). Kennedy is just a joy to watch in every scene she’s in, and while you might question why all the main characters would continue to see her in spite of the strange advice she gives out, it is worth it just to watch her in action.
“Expecting” is one of the smaller films being released under the radar to where it is more likely to make a dent in the VOD market than it will theatrically. That’s kind of a shame because writer/director Jessie McCormack, who makes her feature film directorial debut here, takes a lot of familiar material and manages to put enough of a fresh spin on things to where this film is worth a look. It is clearly a labor of love for everyone involved, and that love can be seen onscreen. While it may seem like a chick flick judging from its poster, it’s a film that will appeal to both men and women as we can relate to many of the struggles these characters go through. It also deals with an issue many of us hope never to face; that we may not get the things we want the most in life.
* * * out of * * * *
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