December 17, 2015

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"...too nice for its own good."


Travis Johnson
Year: 2015
Rating: M
Director: Kris Swanberg

Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean

Distributor: Digital Only.
Released: November 5, 2015
Running Time: 90 minutes
Worth: $11.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

…too nice for its own good.

A white Chicago high school teacher bonds with one of her black students when both fall unexpectedly pregnant in this dramatically inert indie from director and co-writer Kris Swanberg (wife to mumblecore darling Joe Swanberg).

Cobie Smulders is Samantha, who reacts to the news of her impending baby bump by quickly marrying her boyfriend John (Andres Holm) and frets about her job prospects. Jasmine’s (Gail Bean) situation is somewhat more desperate: she’s a good student from a struggling family, and having a child will certainly make landing a university scholarship more difficult. Samantha, in true White Knight form, decides to help Jasmine out.

Painfully earnest, Unexpected dances around some interesting issues – race, class, poverty, bodily autonomy – without ever grappling with them in any meaningful or dramatic way. Swanberg and her co-writer, Megan Mercier, seem loath to imbue their characters with any kind of negative traits – unless you count Samantha’s obliviousness to her privilege, which seems accidental. The film meanders along, never presenting a real conflict or problem besides the situational. Elizabeth McGovern throws some sparks as Samantha’s mother, disappointed that she never got to splash out on a big white wedding for her daughter, but like every other soft obstacle in the narrative, she’s easily overcome.

Unexpected is a nice film – too nice for its own good. It’s a movie by middle class white people who want to talk about certain issues but are so reluctant to cause inadvertent offence that they present those issues as trifling. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions; well, so is the road to obscurity, which this effort is most assuredly on.


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