Review: Maternity thriller 'False Positive' pregnant with too many ideas

Ilana Glazer co-wrote and stars in modern day 'Rosemary's Baby' that never quite finds its footing.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

There's a creepy but not entirely clear message at the center of "False Positive," a pregnancy thriller that maybe has too much on its mind. 

Director John Lee, who co-wrote the screenplay with star Ilana Glazer (they worked on Comedy Central's outrageously funny "Broad City" together) have something to say about the fears and anxieties of carrying a child. But what, exactly? "False Positive" creates a moody atmosphere but is never sure what to do with it, and by the end things never quite come to term. 

Ilana Glazer in "False Positive."

Glazer plays Lucy, who is married to Adrian (Justin Theroux, never not a red flag), a doctor in New York. Their years of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant lead Adrian to call on his med school mentor, John Hindle (Pierce Brosnan), a fertility doctor whose methods yield outstanding results. Soon Lucy is pregnant with triplets — two boys and a girl — and for safety's sake she's asked to choose between the boys or the girl through a process of "selective reduction." 

That's traumatic enough on its own. But it's only one item on a mounting list of concerns: Lucy has issues at work, where despite her rising profile at her marketing firm she's still in charge of ordering lunch every day for her male co-workers; Adrian is acting suspiciously, and Lucy is worried he's having an affair; she's becoming obsessed with a midwife she read about in a magazine; and everywhere she goes, her forgetfulness is causing people to accuse her of having "mommy brain." 

Glazer's comedic talents are instinctual, and perhaps "False Positive" would have worked better as a satire of pregnancy culture, but it's pitched down the middle as a horror thriller, a la "Rosemary's Baby," or a maternal version of Jordan Peele's breakthrough hit "Get Out." 

The problem is it never finds its footing. Dream sequences bleed into real situations and key scenarios are left unexplained, and those that are explained aren't done so satisfactorily. There's a lot to wrestle with in "False Positive," but many of its issues seems to be that it's still be wrestling with itself. "False Positive" suffers from mommy brain.


'False Positive'


Rated R: for disturbing/bloody images, sexual content, graphic nudity and language

Running time: 92 minutes

On Hulu