The Back-Up Plan

The Back-Up Plan


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Whatever you may hear in the news about teenage pregnancies, the fact is that the average age for new mothers in the Western world is getting higher and higher. Many factors are believed to contribute to this. Women often want to progress further in their careers before taking time out to deal with pregnancy. They may be waiting until they can afford to buy houses. They may also simply be waiting to find the right relationships, being less willing than their predecessors to settle for the first prospective partners who come along.

Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) is such a woman, but for her it goes a little further. She's built and then abandoned a corporate career, settling into a comfortable life as a small business owner. She has a nice apartment and everything else in her life is perfect, but she's simply never met a man she's wanted to settle down with. Now she's reaching an age where she can't afford to keep waiting. It's this that prompts the decision to undergo artificial insemination, aiming for responsible single motherhood. But on the very day she walks out of the clinic she bumps into a stranger (Alex O'Loughlin) who seems determined to sweep her off her feet.

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The film's conceit, such as it is, is that life's important stages don't always have to happen in the same order. Falling in love, getting married, having children - everything we're told women ought to dream of - are out of balance for Zoe, who is therefore forced into making her own decisions about just what it is she wants. The trouble is that she's never really required to think outside the box (except, perhaps, with the decision she makes before the film starts) and the outcome of the film never really seems to be in question. The path it follows is similar to pregnancy itself - excitement, hope, increasing discomfort, problems with balance, an awkward self image, conflicting emotions as the conclusion draws near and then, finally, relief that it's all over.

At first the focus seems to be on the man, Stan. Does he really care? Will he commit? Or will he panic and run? But he's a cardboard cut-out character so quick to devote himself that his initial singleness makes little sense. The real issue is Zoe herself. It takes her a while to understand this; unfortunately it takes the audience about five minutes. As there's little in the way of chemistry between the two leads, the rest of the film depends on Lopez's not inconsiderable charm, but for the most part all she does is convince the audience she's better than this script deserves.

If there really is a market out there full of women so fixated on pregnancy that they'll swoon over anything with babies in it, this film may be on to a winner. Beyond that it's just a parade of tired old clichés with a thick coating of sugar.

Reviewed on: 04 May 2010
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A single woman who has just undergone artificial insemination finds her plans compromised when she starts falling in love.
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Tom Seymour **

Director: Alan Poul

Writer: Kate Angelo

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Michaela Watkins, Anthony Anderson, Eric Christian Olsen

Year: 2010

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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