Expecting

A late-30s free spirit gathers her friends around her to have a baby in breezy, improved digital video comedy "Expecting." While not exactly "My Big Fat Canadian Home Birth," pic is squarely in the same ballpark as a certain recent sleeper sensation and thus could ride that crowdpleasing vibe to decent theatrical biz elsewhere and strong ancillary.

With:
With: Valerie Buhagiar, Angela Gei, Derwin Jordan, Debra McGrath, TomMelissis, Colin Mochrie, Karl Pruner, Barbara Radecki.

A late-30s free spirit gathers her friends around her to have a baby in breezy, improved digital video comedy “Expecting.” While not exactly “My Big Fat Canadian Home Birth,” pic is squarely in the same ballpark as a certain recent sleeper sensation (they share the same Canuck distrib) and thus could ride that crowdpleasing vibe to decent theatrical biz elsewhere and strong ancillary.

In a large Toronto loft, very pregnant performance artist Stephanie (Valerie Buhagiar) is enjoying some vigorous third trimester sex with b.f. Ian (Tom Melissis), who hopes he’s the father but isn’t quite sure. Tryst pushes her into early labor, with resulting panic ushering in the arrival of the inner circle that’s been waiting for this day.

Sis Anita (Debra McGrath) is a wry, motor-mouthed dermatologist who’s had a falling out with longtime friend and midwife Julia (Angela Gei) and is thus adamant that Stephanie decamp to a hospital at once. Cameras at the ready, timid food photographer Gary (Colin Mochrie) is quietly supportive and also hopes he’s the dad. Dani (Barbara Radecki) wants nothing to do with kids but agreed to be labor partner while drunk one night; she’s secretly in love with Anita’s husband, Jack (Karl Pruner), a corporate lawyer who also adores Steph. Also along is Steph’s neighbor Azaan (Derwin Jordan), a musician and scholar.

A birthing tub is erected in the middle of the loft, and the games begin. Gary rehearses his marriage proposal, Julia tries to keep Steph focused, Jack is worried about his marriage, Azaan breaks out an African drum, and so on. Events culminate with birth that is as surprising as it is blessed.

Debuting helmer Deborah Day took a meticulous approach to improvisation, using four cameramen to film 55 hours of footage over 13 days on the single set. As a result, pace flags only rarely, though humor lapses sporadically into the self-conscious and shrill. Perfs are confident across the board, with McGrath and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” cast member Mochrie (who are hitched in real life) defining the emotional spectrum. Pic’s genuine novelty is actual pregnancy of the exuberant Buhagiar; “nothing like a deadline to galvanize a project,” Day told one Montreal paper dryly.

Tech credits are fine, with DV format allowing the intimate coverage necessary for improv. Visual quality is as clean or cleaner than most such efforts. Pic shared the Montreal award for best first fiction film at recent Canadian fest, suggesting potential of grassroots support a la “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

Expecting

Canada

Production: A Perch Lake Pictures, Steel City production, with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Movie Central through Corus Entertainment, in association with Showcase Television. (International sales: Perch Lake Pictures, Toronto.) Produced by Kirk Johnson, Sharon Petzold. Executive producer, Thomas Mark Walden. Directed by Deborah Day. Dialogue improvised by Valerie Buhagiar, Angela Gei, Debra McGrath, Barbara Radecki, Derwin Jordan, Tom Melissis, Colin Mochrie, Karl Pruner. Story by Cindy Stone, Karen Hill, Day, developed with Buhagiar, Gei, Radecki.

Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), James Griffith; editor, Lara Mazur; music, Donald Quan; production designer, Alta Louise Doyle; costume designer, Robin Kay; sound (Dolby Digital), Jeff Wilston. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Panorama Canada), Aug. 27, 2002. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Valerie Buhagiar, Angela Gei, Derwin Jordan, Debra McGrath, TomMelissis, Colin Mochrie, Karl Pruner, Barbara Radecki.

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