THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
I'm a little reluctant to tell you about Conception because I know what you're going to think. This comedy assembles a bunch of familiar faces for an ensemble piece that examines a single theme from multiple angles. Admit it – thoughts of Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve just jumped into your brain, right? Rest assured, though, that this independently-made film is leagues better than those corny, simple-minded rom-coms. It knows a couple things those other pictures did not: 1.) You gotta be smart; and 2.) You gotta be identifiable.
The theme, in case you couldn't tell from the title, is getting pregnant. The characters include: a couple (Connie Britton and Jason Mantzoukas) who are actively trying to have a baby; a woman (Julie Bowen) having a fling with a younger man (Gregory Smith); a teenage girl (Sarah Hyland) ready to lose her virginity to her boyfriend (Matt Prokop); a lesbian couple (Pamela Adlon and Moon Bloodgood) preparing for artificial insemination; a husband and wife (Jonathan Silverman and Jennifer Finnigan) whose marriage has grown cold; and a man (Alan Tudyk) who's sex life is hindered by the newborn his wife (Jennifer Jostyn) has just delivered. David Arquette also appears as a school teacher who, in a prologue and epilogue, tries to avoid having to tell his students where babies come from.
As with any ensemble movie of this variety, Conception doesn't give us too much time with any of the characters, and so most of them exemplify a single trait. We don't really get to know a whole lot about any of them. That aside, the actors do a fine job of fleshing them out as much as possible, and even finding ways to bring some nuance. Alan Tudyk, for example, plays the “horny husband” yet suggests a whole range of unspoken motivations behind that. Jennifer Finnigan does a similar thing as the wife who realizes the spark is gone in her marriage; we can feel how this has happened, despite it never being explicitly spelled out for us. The entire cast shows that kind of commitment to the material, which is to the movie's benefit.
As written and directed by Josh Stolberg (who also penned Piranha 3D), Conception displays intelligence about its subject matter. I liked the varying perspectives on the subject, which guarantee that you'll find something you can relate to. Some of the people we meet want to get pregnant; others aren't even thinking about it. A few of them find conception to be a reason for celebration. For a few more, it's a disaster with consequences they aren't prepared to deal with. Instead of relying on broad cliches, Stolberg finds scenarios that are more authentic. For example, in the case of the lesbian couple, the one who will be carrying the baby worries that her partner secretly wants to do it. Then there's the Jennifer Jostyn character, who “doesn't feel sexy” after having recently given birth, and therefore can't understand why her husband wants to be intimate with her. That attention to detail in Conception is extremely appealing. The humor is smart too. Obvious jokes are avoided, and in their place we get more organic comedy that highlights whatever is being explored in any given subplot. I laughed quite a few times throughout the movie.
Conception is available via video-on-demand platforms now. It's worth seeking out. This funny and charming movie gives us a portrait of how – regardless of what one intends – getting pregnant is a life-changing event.
( out of four)
Conception is unrated but contains sexual content/nudity and language. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.
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