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One of Our Own

"One of Our Own" is a "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" for the Prozac set.

Stellan - Josh Randall Diane - Claire Rankin Cathy - Kate Beahan Bob - Matthew Lillard

A four-hander that never gets lost in stagy dialogue or direction, “One of Our Own” is a “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” for the Prozac set. Bolstered by a smart script and razor-sharp perfs, this impressively taut adult drama reps an edgy yet amusing look at middle-class fertility rites. Presence of funnyman Matthew Lillard in a harder, change-of-pace role could help get this gem to the right thirtysomething auds.

Central couple are suburban Angelenos Stellan and Diane (real-life marrieds Josh Randall and Claire Rankin), who have been trying for years to have a baby. But when their surrogate mother has a miscarriage, they are ready to give up.

Just then, Diane — ironically, an obstetric/pediatric nurse — bumps into Cathy (Kate Beahan), a free-spirited younger woman who happens to carry babies for a living. Cathy’s approach is a bit different from that of other surrogates, although she charges much less: She only gets pregnant by having sex with the husband in question.

Overall, the deal seems too good to be true, and it is — but not for any of the reasons viewers, or the couple, are expecting. Once the attractive Cathy, who shares Stellan’s Scandinavian genes, conceives, the more buttoned-up Diane starts discouraging hubby’s enthusiasm for the project.

Far more troubling is the sudden appearance of Lillard’s lizard-like Bob, who runs the refinery where Stellan works. The idea of his boss finding out about the surrogacy scares the bejeezus out of Stellan and Diane, but it becomes even more complicated when Bob falls in love with Cathy. It’s probably inevitable, then, that he wants to adopt the baby she’s carrying for some unnamed daddy.

Pic is a stylish breakthrough for Abe Levy, already a veteran helmer, lenser, scripter and editor. (Randall and Rankin also starred in Levy’s “The Aviary,” in 2005.) Here, working from a screenplay he fashioned with producer (and partner) Silver Tree, Levy toys with aud allegiances, shifting them gradually from the initially likeable protags — with their nice house, cars and jobs — to the flightier Cathy, who gets caught in a whirlwind of emotions, and the brazen Bob, whose greasy-haired crassness gives way to genuine concern for the people involved.

Eventually, it becomes apparent that the conflict isn’t really between opposing twosomes, but rather is built into Stellan and Diane’s relationship, both highly skilled at avoiding communication. The baby-making thus becomes a convoluted form of politicking within the marriage.

Still, even as the characters constantly withhold, cajole and maneuver, little prepares the viewer for a harrowing confrontation in which Diane informs Cathy that the latter’s baby will never be loved. Tensions in general remain high throughout the ominously wrought tale, which never yields to predictable meller impulses. Only a last-quarter development is less than convincingly handled, although results are crucial to the ambiguous yet just-right ending.

Pic’s overall integrity is helped by Eric Holland’s stark music, quietly underscoring Brandon Trost’s high-contrast lensing, which puts everyone in a bad light. Storytelling here is scathingly entertaining, but the viewer still comes away caring about these supposedly grown-up basket cases.

One of Our Own

Production: A Wild Horse Prods. production. (International sales: Wild Horses, Burbank, Calif.) Produced by Silver Tree, Terry Chase Chenowith, Jack Robinson. Co-producer, Matthew Lillard. Executive producers, Robert Sprowls, David Shoshan. Directed, edited by Abe Levy. Screenplay, Levy, Silver Tree.

Crew: Camera (color), Brandon Trost; music, Eric Holland; production designer, Danielle Clemenza; art director, James Addink; costume designer, Robin Fitzgerald; sound design (Dolby), Aren Downie; line producer, Christopher Gourlay; assistant director, Roger Udwin; casting, Rachel Tenner. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival (New American Cinema), June 16, 2007. Running time: 92 MIN.

With: Stellan - Josh Randall Diane - Claire Rankin Cathy - Kate Beahan Bob - Matthew Lillard

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