At the outset, it seems that Jessie McCormack’s Expecting is about friendship and how women at a “certain stage” cope with looming biological decisions. The trouble is that the friends in this 2013 comedy are so distasteful and grating that it becomes more about imagining why they’d want to be around each other and less about the challenges they face.
Expecting is a tone-deaf disaster, a film that swings so callously from grotesque comedic bursts to guitar-driven melancholy that it feels like an odd sort of performance art. “Jokes” are delivered with loud smugness, which undermines the potentially precarious nature of some of the comedy.
Radha Mitchell is Lizzie, a cartwheel-loving tutor who struggles to conceive a child with her husband Peter (Jon Dore). When Lizzie’s best friend Andie (Michelle Monaghan) proclaims that she’s pregnant after a one-night stand, things change dramatically. The obnoxious Andie suggests that Lizzie and Peter take her baby because…why not?
This means that Andie gets to move in, which opportunely coincides with the arrival of Peter’s drug addict brother Casey (Michael Weston). He’s also looking for a place to stay. This sets the stage for all sorts of theoretically funny setups, including a great deal of “jokes” at the expense of the dumb drug addict.
The character of Andie is reprehensible to the point of being sociopathic. Lizzie laughs at most of her “jokes,” which suggests that perhaps her care in selecting friends resembles the gifts Joyce the dog leaves throughout the picture. Unfortunately for those watching Expecting, Andie is really at the core of what drive the plot.
So when she notes that the gel at the sonogram feels like “jizz” or she describes her potentially gay son as a “butt pirate,” buckle up. These are the big laughs. The good news is that Monaghan’s character laughs at a lot of her own jokes, like when she prods Casey in a way that seems psychotic.
The bad news is that Andie is unsalvageable, which generates a run of problems. As much as the audience might wonder how a couple like Lizzie and Peter, who are on the verge of missing a mortgage payment, could afford to live in the house they call their own, the biggest question is why they’d be friends with someone like Andie in the first place.
Obnoxious, vulgar humour has its place, as do reprehensible characters. But lining them up in a narrative that purports to tug at the heartstrings as much as it tickles the funny bone requires a little more than slapdash nastiness and “jokes” about how certain vegetables look like genitals.
Consider a scene in which Casey and Andie are in the kitchen doing dishes. She asks if he’s ever met his birth mom. He says no. Andie suggests sending an email. Casey replies that his birth mother killed herself. Andie guffaws riotously, then apologizes. They play table tennis.
McCormack’s film follows in this vein throughout its intolerable 87 minutes and it never feels earned. There’s no reason Casey merits such treatment apart from the fact that Andie is just that sort of person, which is the perpetual justification made for her throughout the film.
The more meaningful drama between Lizzie and Peter, who at one point take a very convenient and very sudden weekend away, is also subject to McCormack’s haphazard tonal shifts. The film opens with Lizzie singing absurdly to Peter in bed, a quirk that’s later buttressed by her cartwheeling and kiwi-avoiding conduct. Sadly, this goes nowhere.
And so nothing matters in Expecting’s haste to stack piles of lame puns and crude desperation. The characters don’t resonate and their situation is recurrently diluted, which renders the many attempts to fish for empathy null and void. As such, this is one of the most artificial, unamusing and just plain dreadful movies of the year.