False Positive Review: Failure To Thrive
I had high hopes when I first heard about False Positive. After all, why wouldn’t I? A horror movie that has socially conscious vibes but is not the umpteenth Get Out rip-off? And it stars Ilana Glazer, Justin Theroux, and Pierce Brosnan? Sign me up! Unfortunately, as I’ll discuss in this review of False Positive, while it had some striking shots, it ultimately didn’t live up to my expectations.
What’s It All About?
image via Hulu
Lucy (Ilana Glazer) and Adrian (Justin Theroux) have been trying for months to get pregnant. After they’re still unsuccessful, though, Adrian, a reconstructive surgeon, suggests that they meet with one of his old instructors, Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan). Hindle is now an esteemed fertility specialist with his own fancy, if odd clinic, populated with employees, like nurse Dawn (Gretchen Mol) in old-fashioned dress.
The doctor is so esteemed because he gets results. It’s no different with Lucy, who conceives a set of twins and a single baby–don’t ask me, I’m not a scientician–after like, her first treatment. However, as her pregnancy progresses, Lucy begins to become increasingly more unhinged. She tries to enjoy this new phase of her life, making friends with fellow mother-to-be Corgan (Sophia Bush). But she can’t dismiss her growing concerns about the dangers coming for her future daughter. (That’s not a mistake; the doctor performs a reduction to ensure that the pregnancy will be viable.)
False Positive Review
image via Hulu
It seems clear from the start that they meant this movie to be a riff on Rosemary’s Baby. The basic formula’s there: city couple, troubled pregnancy, something else going on? (And of course, the titular baby in the Polanski film is named Adrian.) But in Rosemary’s Baby, the tension and foreboding is there from the beginning. On the contrary, in False Positive, it takes a while for Lucy to cotton on to the strange goings-on. It’s unclear, though, what exactly makes her so suspicious. That, I think, is an example of the movie’s failure to coalesce into a stronger whole.
Because for much of its relatively brisk running time (about an hour and a half), the one word that kept coming to mind was “odd.” Everything about this movie and the choices they made with it are odd. Take the casting, for example. I like both Glazer and Theroux, but it was hard to believe that they liked each other, or at least, liked each other enough to have a baby. Throughout the movie, their chemistry reads more like roommates or cordial coworkers.
And although the movie is, again, fairly short, the pacing is also off, glacial when it needs to be urgent. This contributes to the lack of suspense. Then again, that suspense is just not there in the writing. Everything is sinister only because we expect it to be. Dr. Hindle, for instance, is suspicious because he’s supposed to be–the plot summary already tells you. But for much of the movie, there’s really nothing about him that’s markedly different from any other fusty doctor with sexist undertones.
image via Hulu
That there is the biggest failure of this film, because besides its Rosemary’s Baby aspirations, it also wants to say something. It’s just not sure what. It reminded me a lot of the issues I had in my Black Christmas review, but that movie was more coherent in its targets and its execution. It’s unclear at any point in this movie what exactly it’s trying to communicate outside of a scatter of ideas regarding reproductive rights or just like, the modern experience of being a hashtag girlboss. It’s still debatable whether women can have it all, but in trying to do so, this movie just stumbles.
False Positive is now available on Hulu.
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featured image via Hulu
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.