Pregnancy can be horrible, not least because feeling it and saying it is still taboo. Popular culture presents motherhood as a happy experience that gives a woman’s life new meaning and purpose, and if she is ambivalent about any part of the process, let alone alienated, angry, or depressed, then the problem must lie with her. Perhaps as you might expect, the horror genre has been a place to explore the anxieties pregnancy, secretly—the breast scene in Extraterrestrial can be read as a metaphor for birth – and manifest. False positive, a new A24 project taken over by Hulu during the pandemic, takes the latter approach.
Incorporating shocking examples of actual medical misconduct into a classic prenatal gas lighting tale at the Rosemary baby, the film addresses issues of bodily autonomy and paternalistic medicine through the character of Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan), the sought-after fertility specialist who assists marketing editor Lucy (Big city‘s Ilana Glazer) became pregnant after two years of unsuccessful efforts. According to Hindle, Lucy doesn’t need to worry about how he has succeeded where other doctors have failed – an opinion reinforced by Lucy’s husband Adrian (Justin Theroux), a suspiciously former doctor’s student. easygoing. But Lucy’s quiet intuition that something is wrong eventually grows strong enough that she can no longer dismiss it – as everyone around her does – as just a “mommy’s brain.”
On a broader conceptual level, False positive is intelligent, setting up and then defying expectations through the subversion of tropes, notably the “magical negro”Stereotype expressed through the character of a midwife (Zainab Jah) who serves as a holistic foil to the condescending Hindle. But the satire of pregnancy culture is surprisingly sweet, given that co-writer and producer Glazer, who is is currently expecting her first child, has personal experience with the subject. And the play’s surrealism, lightly expressed in eye-catching compositions involving mirrors and gloved hands, isn’t taken as far as co-writer / director John Lee has gone in for TV work like The heart, she Holler and Xavier: Renegade Angel. In fact, the most stylized aspect of False positive that’s how aggressively bland it is, placing Lucy in an IKEA gray nightmare of urban bourgeois nothingness. (The salad ordering scenes would be Buñuel’s pride.) Hindle’s office, meanwhile, has an Insta-Stepford aesthetic, embodied by the baby pink sheath dress and the neat hairstyle of her right arm, the essentialist nurse. gender-engaged Dawn (Gretchen Mol).
A working subplot doesn’t add much other than establishing Lucy’s as a modern woman trying to “have it all.” Like many False positive, the scenes taking place in her office burn at a low, even temperature, with feminist comments no sharper than the beatings against satisfied expectant mothers. Towards the very end of the film, False positive breaks with decorum and becomes savage, cracking and growling at the pride of male doctors who think they know a woman’s body better than she does. Embodied in a striking image of Glazer drenched in blood under harsh flash lighting like an unholy photo of Terry Richardson, that anger ends a film where each character has a strained smile on their face.
Or False positive could be stronger in differentiating his mind-numbing yuppiedom satire from the genuine article; the distinction is subtle enough that viewers may find it difficult to tell them apart. Glazer and Lee both work primarily in comedy, but the commentary here is drier and more serious, producing heard nods instead of outright laughs. The main creative team’s apparent desire to break away from their wilder, messy material by giving False positive A24 shiny and a steel Dead ringtones the spine is understandable. But for a film with so much blood, it doesn’t leave much stain.