"When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships." - Andy Warhol

Friday, June 8, 2012

Expect nothing and be not disappointed?

I recently saw What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Although I wasn’t expecting much more than a funny, exaggerated portrayal of pregnancy, I was still a bit disappointed when I left the theater.

I want to take it slow!

The movie follows five couples - its first misstep. There were so many characters competing for screen time, I can only remember the name of one of the characters (Jules, played by Cameron Diaz. And the only reason I remember her name is because I was trying to figure out if it was short for something).

The movie is 110 minutes long. Twenty-two minutes is not enough time to humanize each character with enough quirks, strengths, shortcomings, and issues to make the audience care. I needed more time. I wanted to take it slow and get to know them.

When Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) jumps in the pool with a handful of positive pregnancy tests to tell her husband (who was swimming laps) the happy news about her pregnancy, you end up thinking, “That’s pretty crazy…and now there’s probably a little bit of pee in the pool” rather than thinking, “Oh, Wendy! I know how much you wanted this!”

A slight detour to the serious side

The movie didn’t take a completely stereotypical, lighthearted approach to parenthood. It somewhat awkwardly added story lines about miscarriage and unemployment into the plot, tempered with trite jokes about pregnancy-induced incontinence and flatulence.

Wendy falls apart (after wetting her pants, of course).
While I respect the movie’s attempt to appeal to a broader range of emotion, I felt a bit shortchanged by the experience.

Covering the untimely end of an unwanted pregnancy and its effect on the fragile relationship between the would-be parents is a lot to cover in a full length movie, let alone a partially developed subplot. And it detracted from what I really wanted to do - laugh (I'm not heartless, but I suppose that's what I was expecting to do based on the previews for the movie).

What would’ve met my expectations?

Well, I think if I spent the entire movie laughing out loud, I’d be satisfied. I’d also be pretty content if I was eager to rent the movie on DVD (not necessarily because it was a cinematic masterpiece, but just as a guilty pleasure).

And if I found myself thinking about the characters long after the credits rolled, I'd know that something about the movie was powerful enough to stick with me.

Settling? Maybe

I’ve been told that I often set expectations too high. So I’ll take cues from new parents, who coo at their newborns and entertain lofty expectations for their child to be president but end up feeling content if said child simply moves out of the house by the time he’s 35.

And in that spirit, I’ll just be glad the movie delivered something.


  1. I, too, saw this movie recently and wasn't expecting much (no pun intended.) I've gone through two pregnancies in my life and was able to relate best to Wendy, especially when she was in labor and told her husband that she loved him, but really wanted to punch him in the face. Been there!

    I agree that the movie was trying to juggle too many characters and subplots (like Love Actually, New Year's Eve, etc.), but some of it was really funny. I thought Chris Rock and the dad club was hilarious. Perhaps not realistic, but still really funny. All those dads with their tricked-out strollers and baby gear, with the unsupervised toddler straggling behind them. For me, that was worth the price of admission.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I was a bit let down by the movie overall, but I did enjoy a few parts of it, too. I felt sorry for the poor toddler, though! Poor little guy!