- Formula One : Rosberg puts Mercedes on pole in Monaco
- our view : Our View: SGO fight against privatisation beggars belief
- civil service : Towards a ‘less wasteful’ public service
- Cyprus : Tax revenues fall 10 per cent in first quarter
- civil service reform : Furious PASYDY won’t play ball
- Cyprus : UN assures that dinner only a social event
- 2012 : Crossings and trade down significantly in 2012
- animal : Animal welfare group records ‘cruel’ slaughter
- Cyprus : World tourism chief says Cyprus open for business
- Cyprus : Ayia Napa murder trial hears from first prosecution witness
Film review: WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING *
Nausea, to be sure. Bleeding gums. Constipation. Acne, and indeed “bacne”. Heartburn. More nausea. Having to pee every five minutes. All this is to be expected when you’re going to have a baby – but I’ve heard people say they plan to take their pregnant friends to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which just seems excessive. Those nine months of misery and suffering – albeit with a quote-unquote “little miracle” at the end of it – are already hellish enough without being subjected to something as inane and misguided as this would-be delightful trifle. Not to mention that it’s likely to provoke even more nausea.
Five couples deal with pregnancy in this semi-comedy, based on a well-known self-help manual. It’s a bit like Milk It, the picture book about breast-feeding written by Wendy (Elizabeth Banks), which we see her reading to a group of less-than-rapt kiddies in an early scene: goats do it, cows do it, other random animals do it. Same thing with getting pregnant: TV celebrities do it (Cameron Diaz as Jules, a weight-loss guru and celebrity-dance-show contestant), struggling photographers do it (Jennifer Lopez as mildly bohemian Holly), breast-feeding advocates – the aforementioned Wendy – do it, trophy wives married to retired NASCAR drivers do it, young couples in sketchy relationships do it.
The film doesn’t exactly embrace diversity (no single parents, for a start) but it does attempt some variety in its five stories. ‘Doing it’ ranges from nine months of torment and humiliation to a breezy pregnancy you barely even notice (admittedly, the latter is played for laughs). It doesn’t even mean getting pregnant, necessarily: Holly isn’t able to conceive, so instead she and husband Alex adopt an Ethiopian baby (Lopez also starred in The Back-Up Plan, where her character was again infertile; is there something we should know?). Nor does it always mean having a child: a miscarriage, sadly, is also among the things that can happen when you’re expecting – though at least you get a mournful ballad on the soundtrack, and a poignant shot of the doctor approaching in slow-mo to deliver the bad news.
Easy to note that the film is aimed at a niche demographic, and leave it at that. Yet in fact, even beyond the bad jokes – would you believe a split-screen gag involving a banana and a doughnut? – there’s something fundamentally ugly and passive-aggressive about this movie. It’s like all those recent comedies (The Change-Up, say) about the awfulness of marriage, aimed at people who are married, invariably ending on a craven just-kidding disclaimer that marriage isn’t really that awful. In this case we have the “dudes’ group”, a motley crew of daddies who take their babies to the park. This is “where happiness goes to die,” grumbles one dad. Life with young kids is a nightmare, they sigh: you’re emasculated, hen-pecked, constantly run ragged. But then, the disclaimer: “We love being dads!” protests the chief dude (Chris Rock) near the end. “When I was young, I used to think I was happy – but now I know I’m happy. Exhausted, but happy.”
Why does a film about pregnancy even bother to devote so many scenes to men? Because it’s made by the marketing people, and they want a certain audience – not groups of women but couples, who’ll identify and tell their friends. In any case, the m.o. is similar when it comes to the female characters: exaggerate the downside, pander to viewers’ self-pity (wasn’t I brave, going through the hell of having a baby?), pile on the agony, then make everything OK with a glimpse of the “little miracle” at the end. Any gaps can be filled with random one-liners, like the baby called Henry who’s actually named Henri, “after Cirque du Soleil”.
There are good moments here and there. An Australian comedienne called Rebel Wilson brings a daffy originality to Wendy’s assistant Janice (“Can I go on my 15-minute Facebook break?”), making dolphin noises and eccentric remarks in the background; she’s got the same comic deadpan self-sufficiency Zooey Deschanel used to have. Banks is mildly amusing when she freaks out over a mobile phone (just “protecting my miracle,” she explains over the phone’s shattered fragments) or when her own smartphone informs her that “You Are Ovulating”, accompanied by a Tarzan yell – but her character is given so much grief it becomes annoying, and having her redeemed by a ‘viral’ video adds insult to injury. “I just wanted the glow,” she explains tearfully, crushed by the pains of pregnancy, “the one they promise you on the covers of those magazines” – only to discover, in a last-minute twist, that her baby is the glow. Oh I’m sorry, did I spoil it for you?
DIRECTED BY Kirk Jones
STARRING Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks
US 2012 110 mins.