Review: 'False Positive' presents nightmarish pregnancy scenario with minimal gusto
Courtesy of Hulu/A24
Having recently watched “Rosemary’s Baby” for the first time (yes, I know), one can’t help but notice the comparisons director John Lee utilizes throughout his “False Positive” to foster an equally chilling and unnerving environment (it’s also probably no coincidence the husband’s name in the film is Adrian). Pregnancy can often be a tricky, terrifying motif for feature film and prominent comedic actress IIana Glazer (“Broad City”) lends her writing and acting chops to “False Positive” in which she plays Lucy, an infertile vessel yearning for a miracle to get pregnant.
Well that miracle comes in the form of the cheery but suspicious Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan - absolutely menacing in all the best ways), a long time friend and colleague to husband, Adrian (Justin Theroux) who convinces her if anyone can get them pregnant, he can. Like “Rosemary’s Baby,” Lee’s film tackles a variety of themes surrounding body autonomy and objectivity. Lucy is consistently sidelined by all the males in her life (and even the sole “girlfriend” she has played by Sophia Bush can’t think for herself). At her job - a big marketing company run by a smarmy Josh Hamilton - whenever a promotion arises, Lucy’s name is always thrown in the ring, but eventually is asked to pick up lunch orders.
Adrian isn’t much better, often asking for her opinion before passing it off as his own and then manipulating her feelings to his will. Kudos to Theroux for towing the line between nurturing husband and unnerving maniac. We can never read him and it gives “False Positive” an eerie sense of dread. Likewise for Brosnan, playing the fertility doctor who not only gets Lucy pregnant, but with triplets. This is a clever misdirection the filmmakers set-up, presenting a moral dilemma too spoilery to delve into here, but the images and dissection brought forth by the conversations simmer until a climatic boiling point circles back to an opening scene with Lucy walking the deserted highway covered in blood.
Glazer and Lee both dabble in comedy, leaving “False Positive” at a bit of a crossroads. On one hand, it’s not darkly comic enough to be funny and chilling (think what Jordan Peele did with “Us” and “Get Out”) and on the other, the horror elements never feel completely interwoven with the dialogue and the finished product. There’s an emptiness felt as Lucy goes on this journey (especially in the latter half when a subplot involving a non-traditional midwife (Zainab Jah) never cooks). Still, the sinister performances and the surrealism Lee manifests in compositing his shots - involving mirrors and treating pregnancy like a symphony - should leave viewers with something to talk about, but the overall lack of rhythm undermines an otherwise clever thriller with a few tricks up its sleeves.
FALSE POSITIVE debuts on Hulu Friday, June 25th