"Inconceivable" reps a prime example of bad films happening to good actors.

“Inconceivable” reps a prime example of bad films happening to good actors. Perhaps the script looked better on paper, without its maddening repetitions, though much of it was workshopped in rehearsals and helmer Mary McGuckian already demonstrated her severe ADD problems in previous pics, with many of the same thesps. Punning title refers to the theme of fertility clinic scams, but what’s truly inconceivable is that anyone would try to thrust this turkey baster into distribution.

Following up her exposes of yellow journalism (“Rag Tale”) and rehab (“Intervention”), McGuckian turns her attentions to a group of women hoping to conceive through artificial insemination. Dr. Freeman (Colm Feore) is an obvious shyster running a high-tech clinic out of Vegas (pic’s original title was “ART in Las Vegas,” as in Assisted Reproductive Technology). Nine women are inseminated: Miraculously, all but Salome (Jennifer Tilly) become pregnant, though she, too, manages to conceive using the more traditional method.

After the babies are born, investigative journalist Tallulah (Elizabeth McGovern) realizes that all the toddlers seem to look exactly alike. Putting two and two together, she divines that ol’ Dr. Freeman may have switched the donors’ sperm for his own. A preliminary hearing is convened under the supervision of Finbar Darrow (John Sessions), enabling the helmer to return ad nauseam to the episodes in the clinic, from insemination to final verdict, repeated nine times.

Since McGuckian can’t keep her own attention focused long enough to sustain a scene, auds can be forgiven for not caring about anyone in the movie. The women are a mixed bunch, from dim-bulb lesbian Elsa (Donna D’Errico) to sunny newlywed Lottie (Andie MacDowell). Perhaps the oddest figure is blue-blooded matron Frances (Geraldine Chaplin), implanted with an egg from her daughter Laura (Chaplin’s daughter, Oona Chaplin), so a male heir can inherit Frances’ comatose hubby’s trust fund. If that seems a stretch, imagine the sight of 64-year-old Geraldine Chaplin undergoing artificial insemination.

Thesp Lothaire Bluteau, overplaying one half of a gay couple contracting for a surrogate womb, is listed onscreen as McGuckian’s collaborator, a credit he may want to minimize. Dialogue is about as hollow as the cavernous spaces of the clinic, with both script and editing going around and around more often than the centrifuge lab technician Victor (Jordi Molla, looking permanently sleep-deprived) uses to sort the semen.

Of the few characters who feel remotely real, Tilly’s Salome is the only one able to work her screen presence into something memorable. Perhaps it’s Tilly’s superior improv skills assisting her characterization, unlike the ridiculous dialogue hampering the other thesps.

Much could be tolerated if it weren’t for the incessant camera swipes, pointless stuttering edits and repetitive sped-up sections. Opening minutes, with an amusing montage of sperm donors doing their business, at first appears to be a cute way into the pic’s rhythm, until it becomes clear that there is no rhythm — it’s as if the entire screen is screaming out for massive doses of Ritalin.

Frequent shots of Vegas are presumably meant to reinforce the idea that insemination is a gamble. Soundscape is full of low-frequency rumbles that sound like Darth Vader breathing hard in a steel room. Lighting owes much to “CSI,” while Max Gottlieb’s production design feels more sci-fi futuristic than clinical.

Inconceivable

U.K.-Canada

Production

A Scion Films (U.K.) presentation, in association with Freestyle Releasing, Alliance Films, a Pembridge Pictures (U.K.)/Prospero Pictures (Canada) production. (International sales: Penny Wolf & Associates, London). Produced by Jeff Abberley, Martin Katz, Mary McGuckian. Executive producers, Julia Blackman, Susan Jackson, Penelope Wolf. Directed, written by Mary McGuckian.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD-to-35mm), Mark Wolf; editor, David Freemantle; music, Kevin Banks; production designer, Max Gottlieb; art director, Anastasia Masaro; costume designer, Sally O'Sullivan; sound (Dolby Digital), Mark Gingras; line producer, Marshall Leviten; associate producers, Catherine Juniot, Richard Rowntree; casting, Sharon Howard-Field. Reviewed at Taormina Film Festival (Grande Cinema), June 19, 2008. Running time: 105 MIN.

Cast

With: Colm Feore, Jennifer Tilly, Andie MacDowell, Elizabeth McGovern, Geraldine Chaplin, Jordi Molla, Donna D'Errico, Lothaire Bluteau, Kerry Fox, Amanda Plummer, Sarah Stockbridge, Reagan Pasternak, John Sessions, David Alpay, Nicholas Campbell, Oona Chaplin, Michael Eklund, Colin Mochrie, David Sutcliffe, Kennedy McGuckian.

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