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Monday, 13 December 2010

Do you want to see Jennifer Lopez invent a bunch of new ways of getting into a cab while wearing a too-tight dress? The Back-up Plan (dir Alan Poul, 2010) is where you can do this. But the movie is more than a romantic comedy as it looks at ways that distrust and fear can undermine even the most promising vision of the future. In a sense, it's quite a serious film and Lopez, who plays Zoe, is up to the challenge of doing both comedy and drama supported by sensitive hunk Alex O'Loughlin as Stan the student goat farmer.

From the outset the focus is on making babies. The movie opens in a fertility clinic where Zoe is about to undergo insemination. After the procedure is finished, she leaves the building but it's raining so she flags a cab. Once inside, she's suprised to find another occupant: it's Stan. They bicker in the back seat and then Zoe gives up the field and exits but Stan follows her down the street as she makes her way home. In this way their romance is concieved. It flourishes after they meet again at a farmer's market where Stan is manning a stall where the cheeses he makes are on display. Then Stan visits Zoe's pet store, Zoe drives out to visit Stan on his farm, and they're well on the way to marital bliss until Stan finds out that Zoe is pregnant with someone else's child.

Zoe has problems with Stan, too. One day, he mentions to an old lover of his that the child evident in Zoe's silhouette is not his. Zoe flares up and promptly quits the relationship. Zoe has this complexity in her character that her mother died when she was a small child and her father left the family, unable to cope with the desperate situation. Ever since then, Zoe has found it hard to trust other people. So when Stan mentions the truth to his old flame, Zoe goes ballistic and walks out.

Through all these trials, Zoe's warmth and seriousness shine through. She's not only self-motivated but she's sensitive too. Lopez is up to the task of navigating both the difficult and the comic passages that fall out between Zoe and Stan, and O'Loughlin plays second fiddle with sensitivity and flair. In the end, though, it's really a girl's movie. It is in fact about what it takes for two people to set up a family: out of nothing more than dreams and wishes, it seems. But these turn out to be enough for these two and in the end it was with tears that I watched the closer approach. It's a comic scene and I won't spoil it but suffice to say that Lopez nails it, just as she does everything else in this excellent, fun film.

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