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Miss Conception (2008)

First Look Studios
DVD Released: 8/5/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/2/2008

I wouldn't really consider myself a jingoist (I'm not even sure if I'm using that word correctly), but I am a proud American, and I like to see Americans keep their jobs. Therefore, I'm also befuddled when a British actor is cast in the role of an American, and forced to adopt an American accent. Especially when you don't know that they're British real life. It's disconcerting when they bust out an "'Ello guv'ner!" in the making-of featurette. I'm happy to report that we've turned the tables on them with Miss Conception, where not one, but two American (well, one's Canadian, but who's counting?) actresses play English lasses. Now, if only it were a better movie.

Heather Graham stars in Miss Conception as Georgina Salt, a successful woman who lives in London with her boyfriend, Zak (Tom Ellis), a documentary filmmaker. When Zak's sister has a baby, this brings up the subject of children, and Zak admits that he doesn't want kids. Georgina, who can hear her biological clock ticking, is appalled by this, and promptly breaks up with Zak. She then sees a fertility specialist who informs her that she only has one ovum (egg) left and that she will be ovulating in the next week. She realizes that this is her last chance to have a baby and she doesn't want to miss the opportunity. Georgina decides to put her issues with Zak aside, but he has left the country. Thus, Georgina's best friend Clem (Mia Kirshner) devises a plan for Georgina to meet a man and get pregnant. They've got four days to find a suitable no-strings attached father.

So, what happened to Heather Graham? In the late 1990s, it appeared as if she was going to be a solid fixture in major feature films, as she had starred in Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me and Boogie Nights. And while Bowfinger and Lost in Space were both box-office disappointments, they were still forecasted to be big movies. However, look at here IMDB.com page, and after the 2001 entry From Hell (where she, again, played a Brit), and the movies become quite obscure. Her guest appearance on Scrubs is the one thing that jumps out at me. Well, Miss Conception isn't going to bring her back to the A-list.

The movie suffers from several major issues. First of all, the central concept (?!) isn't very original. We've seen the "biological clock is ticking and I've got to get pregnant" storyline before. (Apparently, this is central to Baby Mama and we got to see the other side of this idea in The Brothers Solomon.) This idea has become a sitcom-style cliche and isn't a good jumping off point for a film. Why? Because the notion walks an odd line between fantasy and reality. Is it believable that a woman of a certain age would be desperate to get pregnant? Of course it is, but the idea that Georgina has four days to meet a stranger and have him impregnate her is a bit weird. (For the record, adoption and artificial insemination are discussed in the movie.)

There are also problems with the story. The movie hits the ground running, but the 104-minute running time (not 94 minutes as listed on the DVD box) seems to drag by at times. The crime here is that during this time, we learn next to nothing about the characters. How long have Zak and Georgina been together? What's their history? How does Georgina know Clem? What's their history? How does their friend Justin (Orlando Seale) figure into all of this? Georgina runs a construction company and even in this day and age, that's an unusual job for a woman -- How did she arrive at this career? We watch these characters go about this farcical plot, but learn nothing about them. The story doesn't get any help from the editing. The movie is quite choppy and the action (and by action I mean talking and characters moving) never has a flow. This doesn't help with the feeling that the pace is all wrong.

These problems keep Miss Conception from being anything more than a mediocre film and that's too bad, because, with a little tweaking, the central idea could have worked. While overall structure of the film feels forced, the relationships have a genuine ring to them and the opening conversation between Georgina and Zak sounds exactly like ones that I've had in real life with my wife. The acting is OK, but I never felt any chemistry between Graham and Kirshner, and their scenes together (which were many) had an odd vibe. When I was done watching Miss Conception, I didn't have any post-partum depression.

Miss Conception gives one last big push on DVD courtesy of First Look Studios. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. However, the closing credits are windowboxed at 1.85:1...while still inside a 2.35:1 frame. How does that work? This led me to believe that the real OAR was 1.85:1, but the movie never looks stretched. That aside, the image is fairly sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain at times, but no defects from the source material. The image has a nice depth to it and it's never overly dark or bright. The film was shot in a very natural style and the colors look very good, especially bright tones. I noted some slight video noise at times, but otherwise, no major defects. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are pretty good, and we occasionally get some solid surround sound. The score sounds very good and fills the speakers. Still, this is a dramedy, so we don't get a lot of dynamic audio effects.

The lone new extra on the Miss Conception DVD is a "Behind the Scenes" (9 minutes) featurette. This contains a generous amount of on-set footage and comments from the producer and the director who talk about the film's conception (Ha!) and their approach to the story. We also get comments from Graham, Kirshner, Ellis, and Ruta Gedmintas, who discuss their characters and their thoughts on the movie. The DVD also contains the trailer for the film, letterboxed at 1.78:1 and 16 x 9.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long