It seems somehow fitting that “Expecting” is arriving in limited theatrical release nine months after its world premiere (as “Gus”) at SXSW. Unfortunately, this charm-free comedy about the repercussions of an unplanned pregnancy — the debut feature of writer-director Jessie McCormack — is hardly a bundle of joy. Commercial prospects are barren.
Frustrated in her attempts to conceive her own child, Lizzie (Michelle Monaghan) jumps at the chance to adopt when best buddy Andie (Radha Mitchell), an impulsive motormouth, winds up pregnant after a one-night stand. Trouble is, Andie proves to be chronically annoying with her unfiltered observations and inappropriate wisecracking while living with Lizzie and her husband, Peter (John Dore), during the pregnancy.
The situation gets more complicated with the arrival of Casey (Michael Weston), Peter’s adopted brother, recently released from rehab. This plot development cues the movie’s only laugh-out-loud sequence, a spontaneous sexual interlude involving the ex-addict and the expectant mother. It’s one of the few scenes in the entire movie where the grating overstatement of Mitchell’s performance is at all funny.
McCormack and her players work hard to wring laughs from the ludicrously self-involved attitudes of the four central characters. Even when judged by the standards of broad farce, however, “Expecting” repeatedly strains credibility and defies logic in ways too glaring to ignore. It’s one thing to subtly suggest Peter might not be completely on board with the idea of becoming a father; it’s quite another for the guy to be so obviously ambivalent that Lizzie seems borderline delusional by ignoring his lack of enthusiasm.
Mimi Kennedy shows up now and then as a blunt-spoken therapist who says things that Lizzie really doesn’t want to hear. Her strenuously sassy riffs prove almost as unwelcome as the ill-advised attempts at heart-tugging sentimentality in the script’s third act.
Despite Monaghan’s game efforts to make Lizzie’s desperation seem endearing, it’s difficult to care much for any of the lead characters here. On the other hand, a late plot twist may leave viewers mildly worried about what the future holds for someone best described as an innocent bystander.