False Positive Movie Review
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) -
False Positive is an obvious homage to Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and other devil baby films that rely heavily on psychological terror and what is unseen and unknown. As someone who worships the Polanski film and has seen it dozens of times, the in film references are much more obvious. I think Rosemary’s Baby is one of the finest films ever made and I have often showed it to, or recommended it to my film class at the university. Given this, I understand that my take on False Positive may be a bit more critical than the average movie goer.
Upwardly urban couple Lucy (Ilana Glazer) and Adrian (Justin Theroux) cannot conceive, but desperately want a child. Enter Dr. Hindle, (Pierce Bronson) the foremost fertility specialist in the world, who just happens to know Adrian (are you getting the RB reference in his name?) as a former student from med school. This previous connection comes in handy, because everyone else, it seems, has a year and half wait to see Hindle.
Hindle is a bit too good at his job, and Lucy conceives not one, but three embryos: twin boys and a singlet girl. Dr. Hindle must deliver the bad news; due to her previous miscarriages and present precarious health state, she couldn’t possibly carry all three babies to term. Faced with the difficult decision of selective reduction, Lucy chooses to keep the girl, going against both her husband’s and doctor’s wishes and recommendations. She will name her Wendy, after the girl in Peter Pan. This honors her mother’s memory, as she read the book to her as a child.
There are many plot points, plot devices and reveals that resemble “Rosemary’s Baby” and that would be okay if the film became its own film at some point, but when it finally goes for it, in the third act, it all falls apart. It never really gels, and the last twenty minutes, which are gory and action packed feel like they belong in another film. The last ten minutes of Rosemayr’s Baby are terrifying, and you NEVER see the baby. One positive moment, Gretchen Mol, playing a sinister nurse, has a hysterical line near the end that had me howling.
Bronson is terrific as the charming, slick, powerful man who thinks he may be God. He is amazingly subtle, and genial and menacing at the same time. Theroux, who I have always found a bit creepy is also very good, playing off his natural mysteriousness and too good to be true looks. Glazer, however isn’t vulnerable enough, or emotionally accessible for me to feel a tremendous amount of sympathy or empathy. She often feels opaque and “cool.” The disturbing terror in Rosemary’s Baby comes from the goodness of Rosemary and Mia Farrow’s terrific performance as the realization of what is going on sinks in. The whole film is her point of view, and Farrow’s waif like wide-eyed face says it all. In this film, I was always ahead of the story, and Glazer’s performance made me feel like she was also, or that was she was a bit too indifferent about everything.
There are some interesting ideas, like the patriarchal control over women’s birth rights, bodies, and the birthing process. The references and use of Mommy Brain, implying that women can be addled and too emotional and “it’s all in your head” send a chilling message about attempts to control women’s thoughts. The scenes involving the surgical instruments and procedures have a special cringe dread factor, without being over the top.
But ultimately the film doesn’t work and feels incomplete and the ending is not only ridiculous, but leaves a few unanswered questions. It is simply not satisfying.
Written by Ilana Glazer, John Lee and Alissa Nutting
Directed by John Lee
Now streaming free on Hulu, with subscription
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