Movie Review: Facing the prospect of parenthood as “Fully Realized Humans”

We few. We lucky, lucky few.

We who nothing of the magical qualities of the doula, we for whom the acronym “RIE” is akin to speaking in tongues. We have no idea how lucky we are.

Here’s a comedy about childbirth in present day LA, in the America of self-actualizing, over-sharing, conflict resolution and conflict-avoiding, of becoming “Fully Realized Humans” before they try to birth and raise such a creature.

It’s a sometimes hilarious post-mumblecore meditation, rumination and romp about getting prepared (for childbirth) and realizing how unprepared you are, about judging the lumps who raised you and realizing that maybe they didn’t have the data at their disposal you do, Dr. Spock or not.

Mostly, it’s about the panic that sends our settled and prepping couple — Jess Weixler and Joshua Leonard — into “bucket list” fits of all the living they need to do before life, as they know it, is over.

It all starts when Jackie and Elliot have a baby shower which turns into a comical series of friends’ one upping each other on childbirth as “the worst thing ever” and “crib death” riffs.

Their doula, aka “Mommy’s new (paid) best-friend,” midwife, birth coach (Erica Chidi Cohen) makes the mistake of asking them to close their eyes and visualize “what YOU need,” at this point. They doze off, just for a second.

Then they take Maya’s “prescription,” “one orgasm a day” and head home and realize time’s running out on all the things they never did. Jackie is VERY pregnant, but they both dive straight into the deep waters of the River Denial, given this “bucket list” chance.

“Jump out of an airplane!” “Dine and DASH!” “Go SWIMMING with SHARKS!” “Get tattoos!” “Visit ANTARCTICA!” “Buy a classic car and drive it up the coast!” “Get chased by COPS!”

But the path to “Fully Realized Humans” has to pass through that very first “item” that they settle on actually doing. The words “pegging” and “strap on” are enough to make a grown man like Elliot quake.

Director and co-star Leonard, a long way from his days lost in the woods in search of “The Blair Witch,” gets laughs out of Elliot’s wide-eyed alarm at their visit to a sex toys shop and everything that visit opens up. Turns out they both have “daddy issues.”

Weixler (“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” and TV’s “The Good Wife”) was a solid eight months pregnant when they filmed this, so deliver her a special Oscar for that. She gives us a Jackie who is fine until that moment where she figures out she’s not…as prepared as she thought.

Banter, group scenes and debates have an improvised, “nobody really knows where this is going” feel. Funny people riffing, actresses who’ve given birth unloading the LOWdown on childbirth to the pregnant actress, parents (Michael Chieffo, Beth Grant and Tom Bower) jolted and backpedaling as they confronted by their shortcomings in a pre-birth intervention staged by their son or daughter.

The film is scripted (by the co-stars), but that “mumblecore” sense of chatty people chatting something to death until funny words come out bubbles through every scene that isn’t a montage of the two spraying graffiti, daring the cops to chase them, or getting lost in the dark on a nature hike.

It’s a scruffy comedy and what’s on screen can be pretty rough at times. But get past the jaw-dropping nature of the “pegging” and ponder how much of what went on there was improvised and the laughs become impossible to suppress.

MPA Rating: unrated, some violence, drug abuse, sexually explicit and lots of profanity

Cast: Jess Weixler, Joshua Leonard, Erica Chidi Cohen, Michael Chieffo, Tom Bower and Beth Grant

Credits: Directed by Joshua Leonard, script by Jess Weixler and Joshua Leonard. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:16

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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