Early on in writer-director Jessie McCormack's "Expecting" — about female friendship, marriage and pregnancy — there's an unhurried, amiable but tension-filled vibe that suggests Nicole Holofcener's perceptive comedies. Lizzie (Radha Mitchell) wants a baby, her husband, Peter (John Dore), might not, but they accept an offer from Lizzie's caustic kook of a best friend, Andie (Michelle Monaghan) — pregnant after a one-night stand — to hand over Andie's child to them when born.
The movie's early promise fades, however, as an Apatowian crassness descends upon the comic situations, churlishness gets mistaken for rawness, and sweetness starts to feel manipulative instead of natural. (And could someone please ban wistful strumming and plucking from indie background music?)
In the end, McCormack's characters simply start behaving like they're acting in a comedy of manners instead of unexpectedly living one.
Mitchell and Monaghan get the prickly part right as besties suddenly in an unfamiliar personal space regarding their hopes and desires, but they lack a built-in camaraderie to ground it all. Michael Weston has good moments as Peter's recently rehabbed brother, whereas Dore seems only to connect to Peter's hostility and little else.
"Expecting." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. Playing at Laemmle Music Hall.
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