There are two types of Lindsay Lohan films. There is the witty, entertaining, engaging and deceptively insightful Mean Girls, and there is a collection of dire attempts at chick flicks through which studios have sought to trade on Lohan’s name for financial gain.
I harboured little hope that Labor Pains would do anything to change or disprove that crude, but depressingly accurate, model of categorisation. And as the credits rolled a short while later, I discovered I had been, if anything, too optimistic: the film’s sheer lack of comedy, character development or plausible storyline had left me thinking that the pains of labour and childbirth might have made for a more enjoyable 89 minutes.
“Thea’s level of chemistry with both Miles and Nick would have been most suited to a Mathmo and an ASNAC on a RAG Blind Date”
This was a shame, in the sense that the film’s premise did show a degree of promise. Labor Pains sees financially struggling Thea Clayhill (Lohan) try to avoid being fired by her boss, Jerry Steinwald (Chris Parnell) – thereby retaining the job at a publishing company which she uses to support the education of her rebellious little sister Emma Clayhill (Bridgit Mendler) – through the faking of a pregnancy, with the storyline based on the consequences which follow.
For example, as Thea gets deeper into her lie, she discovers the flaws in her relationship with her immature fiancée Miles (Aaron Yoo) and receives new-found respect from her co-workers. More importantly to the ‘plot’, Thea catches the eye of interim boss and brother of Jerry, Nick Steinwald (Luke Kirby) who – after he enlists Thea to use her ‘pregnancy’ to snare a promising writer – begins to fall for her. But an element of jeopardy is thrown in as Nick discovers Thea’s lie, shortly before an inevitable public declaration of love sees the happy couple reunited to live happily ever after.
Admittedly, there is only one scene that shows what an enjoyable movie Labor Pains could have been where Thea and Nick are subjected to participating in a range of intimate exercises during an antenatal class, with the undeniable hilarity accentuated by a fantastic cameo from Jessica St. Clair as the outrageous instructor. And at times, where Thea is engaged in a period of sustained, uninterrupted speech – such as her declaration of love for Nick – it is hard not to appreciate Lohan’s obvious capacity to act.
But on the whole, the film is butchered by its failure to stop defying logic in almost every way, rendering it obvious as to why it never even made cinemas in the USA or the UK and registered such a pitiful box office performance.
For one thing, many of the characters failed to bear resemblance to actual humans; the characterisation too heavily rooted in stereotype. There was a nerdy, ambitious and overly obliging intern who failed to be as annoying as he should have been; a rebellious, secretive and unsympathetic little sister who inexplicably looked 10 years older than Lohan; and a handsome leading man intended to be kind, gentle and empathetic but who ended up in at least three fights and confrontations as the film progressed.
But where the writing of the characters was poor, the standard of acting was even worse; lines of sarcasm that might have been funny were lost in delivery, while Thea’s level of chemistry with both Miles and Nick would have been most suited to a Mathmo and an ASNAC on a RAG Blind Date. Indeed, it was patently unclear how Thea and Nick had managed to fall in love given the lack of any obvious ‘uniting’ experience.
And there were times when the film descended into the downright farcical. At least five minutes of the film saw Lohan in various stages of undress that served no discernible purpose other than to keep a certain audience demographic interested. Meanwhile, a scene involving all of Thea’s colleagues playing baseball together was a joke: some of the attempts by the actors to portray genuine injuries were the kind of simulation that receives an eviscerating by the Match of the Day pundits.
If there is some kind of message to Labor Pains – perhaps a warning of the potential for a lie to become all-consuming(?) – it is all but lost as the viewer has to try and come to terms with unexplained leaps in the story line that are liable to confuse and puzzle. Suddenly, Thea’s fiancé is aware and okay that she is faking a pregnancy. Out of nowhere, Thea is trying to convince a TV producer to allow her to market a book on her programme. And as if by magic, Nick has promoted Thea to editor based on her performance at a meeting that does nothing to verify her capacity for the role.
In all, there is very little that anybody involved in the film’s cast or production team can be particularly proud of. Indeed, before writing this review, I had to double-check that I had not just misunderstood, and that the film was meant to be deliberately awful, perhaps a parody of something else.
Alas, it turned out Labor Pains was just shit
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