THE BACK-UP PLAN: Starring Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin, Michaela Watkins and Tom Bosley. Directed by Alan Poul. Rated M (mature themes, sexual references and infrequent coarse language). 103 mins.
Reviewed by Jim Murphy
FINDING a new twist for romantic comedy is a bit like the holy grail for Hollywood screenwriters, and Kate Angelo manages to be both traditional and modern in Alan Poul’s amiably entertaining The Back-Up Plan.
At base it is really the old romantic comedy staple: boy-girl-meet-love-misunderstanding-separate-reconcile-happy ever after.
To which Angelo adds her X-factor, the comparatively recent phenomenon of in-vitro fertilisation, adding some new wrinkles to the familiar scenario.
Jennifer Lopez is appealing as Zoe, a pet store owner who feels life is passing her by.
Desperate to have a baby, and despairing of ever meeting the “right” man she could trust to co-operate in achieving this, she goes to a clinic to be artificially inseminated.
As fate would have it (and doesn’t it always?), as soon as she leaves the clinic she bumps into the man who will force her to re-evaluate her priorities.
Stan (played by Alex O’Loughlin) has a goat farm where he makes cheese.
He pursues Zoe, who is at first reluctant to get involved at this delicate stage of her life, but of course she melts under his charm and they become lovers.
Then she has to find a way of telling him that she is pregnant.
Then he has to find a way to accept that, if he hangs around, he will have to be father to another man’s progeny (albeit an anonymous sperm donor).
Then he starts to assess the lifetime cost of raising children, which panics him.
Then – well, you get the idea.
All the issues surrounding impending motherhood (the pregnancy test, medical probings, morning sickness, food cravings etc) are worked over, and I suspect that women who have had children will get more fun out of it than your average male.
The best satirical component is the single mother support group that Zoe joins. These earnest women take it all very seriously, and the movie’s best moment by far is when one of their number (a hilarious cameo by Maribeth Monroe) invites Zoe and Stan to watch her water birthing.
Played in broad revue style, the scene is very funny and alone is almost worth the price of admittance.
Lopez, who displays a gift for amiable, unforced comedy, carries the film without any trouble. Aussie O’Loughlin (you may remember him in The Oyster Farmer) gives a rather perfunctory performance, but his chief function is to seem nice and look good.
Michaela Watkins gives strong support as Zoe’s best friend, and veterans Linda Lavin and Tom Bosley register nicely as Zoe’s grandmother and 93-year-old fiancé.
The Back-Up Plan is hardly a side-splitter, but its look at the lighter side of one of society’s newer issues should make audiences ponder other implications of IVF.
Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.