The Back-Up Plan

The Back-Up Plan


Reviewed by: Tom Seymour

If we believe the sermons of Woody Allen and Carrie Bradshaw, Manhattan is the single person’s playground, a veritable theme-park of light-hearted polyamory. Not so, apparently, for Jennifer Lopez.

In The Back-Up Plan, J-Lo plays Zoe, a single woman staring down the barrel of her late 30s. She lives alone in NYC, owns her own pet-shop and talks soppily to an adorably disabled pug. Money, it seems, is no object thanks to a spell in the amorphous “corporate world”. She has loyal mates, but her family consists of a single, ageing grandparent. Mr Right has evaded her, somehow, but it’s ok. She is, of course, Happy To Be Alone, and she does, of course, Have A Plan - namely to seek pregnancy through medical insemination.

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And then one day, some rude, cocky upstart of a fella attempts to steal her yellow taxi when quite clearly it was hers. What cheek! What audacity! Who does he think he is, Puff Daddy? Never mind his square jaw, effortless banter, kindly grin and the suspicious swell of rock-hard muscle underneath those unshowy clothes. This guy Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) deserves the cold shoulder, even if he keeps on bumping into her, As If It Were Fate.

To provide the obligatory absurdly delayed revelatory plot-point, J-Lo hides her pregnancy from Stan, putting the temporary skates on their romance. As her pregnancy develops, the inevitable roadblocks crop up; Stan worries about commitment, money and his suitability to be a father. But pragmatics also get involved. Morning sickness becomes a full blown motif, as does Jennifer’s newfound taste for fast food.

There’s a creeping suspicion that this film is a vanity project, a reminder that J-Lo is still just Jenny From the Block. Indeed, many of the film’s comedic moments, from birth sequences to sex scenes, seem to revolve around denigrating J-Lo’s ultra-glam persona (after Scarlett Johansson’s turn in The Nanny Diaries, this appears to be the standard reaction to developing a diva reputation).

Well, kudos Jenny, because it kind of works. Underneath the Reggaeton Latino pop, perfume and clothing range, Jennifer Lopez is an under-rated actress. In Steven Soderbergh’s brilliant Out Of Sight she was tough, cool and smolderingly sexy. In Maid In Manhattan and Wedding Planners, she was consistently funny. Here, she is endearingly sympathetic.

The Back-Up Plan is her first film for three years. During this time, she has turned 40 and mothered twins of her own. As such, the film consciously focuses on her pancake flat stomach and world-famous bum. She is undeniably absolutely stunning.

The current standards of Hollywood rom-coms are as low as a post-divorce Ben Affleck. The real bottom-feeders (The Ugly Truth, He’s Just Not That Into You) wield an inexcusably mean-spirited, sneering attitude to their protagonists. Many of the others simply possess a desperate calculation.

Despite its skin-deep premise, there is nothing new, subversive or interesting here; belief must be entirely suspended, the production values are pure studio, the genre resolutely unchallenged. But The Back-Up Plan has merit as a reasonably serviceable vehicle for an actress who really should be higher up Hollywood’s food chain.

Lopez is no Audrey Hepburn, but she has charm, presence, and sex appeal. J-Lo, sack your agent, burn every rom-com script you get, give Soderbergh a call, and show us what you can really do.

Reviewed on: 14 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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Jennie Kermode **

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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