False Positive review – Hulu’s entertaining pregnancy comedy lacks originality

June 26, 2021
Cole Sansom 0
Film Reviews, Hulu
3

Summary

The horrors of medicalized pregnancy are made clear, with not quite enough panache as needed.

3

Summary

The horrors of medicalized pregnancy are made clear, with not quite enough panache as needed.

This review of False Positive is spoiler-free.


To state that False Positive (out today on Hulu) is a riff on Rosemary’s Baby, would not come as news to the film’s creators. Writers Ilana Glazer and John Lee (who collaborated previously on Broad City), the star and director of False Positive respectively, are clearly indebted to the 1968 horror classic. The question then is what is the purpose of a “modern take” on Rosemary’s Baby.

Their target is nothing more than institutional (including medical) misogyny: the system which punishes women for being pregnant in the workplace while simultaneously praising them for carrying on “lineages”. Which makes infertility seem monstrous but offers up extremely expensive scientific cures in response. And then creates a binary between medical and natural, leaving a vigorous debate about what’s “best” for the baby that often leaves the woman carrying it out of the question.

That False Positive raises all these issues is one thing. That it does so in a nuanced way while providing a compelling narrative and the thrills expected of the genre is an altogether different ask, one in which the film doesn’t always rise to the challenge.

Ilana Glazer and Justin Theroux play Lucy and Adrien, a trendy upper-middle-class couple who have been trying for years to have a baby with no success. Their luck changes when Adrien pulls some strings and arranges an appointment with a former mentor, the charming and highly in-demand Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan, looking like an older Adrien). With his high-tech methods, Hindle is able to get Lucy pregnant. While her dream of a family is closer than ever, Lucy is plagued by nightmares and visions that make her start to believe that Hindle has done something unnatural to her, has some sort of evil plan.

It’s in these aforementioned visions where False Positive’s failure of originality lies. I’m far from a seasoned horror aficionado, but even so, I was struck by the rote nature of many of the scenes. Though it runs a slim ninety-two minutes, there isn’t a single striking image or moment. Even as Lucy’s “mommy brain” gets the better of her and the nightmares grow, the film fails to proffer up any aesthetic terror.

Far stronger are the depictions of the more mundane horrors; that of the patriarchal medical system. Much of False Positive’s runtime consists of scenes where Lucy lies on a table, perfectly centered in the frame, while Dr. Hindle and his assistants look down her cervix. Being pregnant makes her feel used, and the film succeeds in conveying how Lucy is repeatedly denied autonomy.

This is Glazer’s first lead film role but you wouldn’t know it from watching False Positive (lending credibility to the old adage that horror and comedy are within the same wheelhouse). Her performance seems effortless and grounds the film early on before it descends into the “is she crazy or is there something supernatural occurring?” narrative. Theroux is well cast, his handsome puppy dog face creating ambiguity regarding whether his allegiance is to Lucy or Dr. Brindle.

Without spoiling the ending (or the middle, or the beginning), the film proves that its heart (its brain, to be precise) is in the right place, even if the path towards there doesn’t always thrill as much as it should. Ultimately, False Positive is a slight but thought-provoking movie that stutters when it should dazzle and frighten.

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