Monday, March 4, 2013

The Surrogacy Trap (Incendo, 2013)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2013 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

The Lifetime movie was The Surrogacy Trap, part of a weekend they were doing of stories about married (straight) couples unable to conceive and bear children in the usual fashion, and the expedients they relied on for that purpose. It was one of two “original” films given their Lifetime premieres last weekend, along with The Surrogate — which was shown just ahead of it and I didn’t watch, though I did record it when it was “premiered” the night before — and neither Lifetime’s own site nor lists the writer for the film, but it’s enough in the Christine Conradt mold that I could readily believe that a) she wrote it (or if she didn’t, the person who did has thoroughly internalized her formulae) and b) it might as well have been called The Perfect Surrogate, since its basic plot outline is pretty much the same as Conradt’s “Perfect … ” scripts: the naïve, innocent young man/woman/couple invites a well-recommended stranger into his/her/their home/office/bed and said stranger appears competent, responsible and sane at first but soon degenerates into a monster in human form, after their riches/identity/family/sanity. The Surrogacy Trap centers around successful couple Mitch (David Julian Hirsch, not exactly drop-dead gorgeous but a good deal hotter than most Lifetime leading men) and Christie (Mia Kirschner, top-billed) Bennet (so far the only other person I can think of with the name “Bennet” with only one “t” is the old serial director Spencer Gordon Bennet). Mitch is an architect and Christie is the head of the Envy cosmetics company, and the two have everything they could want except a family. They’ve tried in vitro fertilization but Christie has already miscarried twice and she goes into a third miscarriage in the middle of a business meeting, the scene which opens the film. Advised by their doctor (Paula Costain) that it would be too dangerous for her to get pregnant a fourth time, Christie and Mitch decide to hire a surrogate to carry their baby for them. They reject the first candidate, a nice-looking redhead whose head shot makes her seem like what Charles Schultz’ little red-haired girl would look like when she grew up, because she’s already borne three surrogate children and miscarried a fourth, and they don’t want someone who seems to have made getting pregnant with other people’s children her career. The one they finally end up hiring is Mallory Parkes (Rachel Blanchard, a genuinely sexy and charismatic actress — if I were straight she’d do a lot more for me than Mia Kirschner would!), a young blonde who according to the Lifetime formula plot (what Maureen Dowd contemptuously called “pussies in peril” — though this one is part of the sub-genre in which the pussy is in peril from another pussy!) presents a glowing, gushing face to the world in general and the Bennets in particular but has a mean streak underneath and is totally demented under that.

Not only does she decide, once she’s implanted with the Bennet’s in vitro-fertilized embryo, that if she’s going to go through the rigors of nine months of morning sickness, night sweats and a belly so swollen no man will date her she’s entitled to keep and raise the baby that’s going to result from all this, she also gets obsessed with the idea that Mitch is going to leave Christie, marry her and they will raise the baby (and future ones they’ll conceive normally) together. She gets more and more vicious and clinging, she pulls stunts like asking Mitch to come over at odd hours (there’s a nice bit of worm-turning in which she tells him her bathroom pipes are leaking in an attempt to lure him over, and she actually takes a hammer and hacks away at her shower so there will be a leak, only he sends a plumber instead and the look on her face when she sees the guy at her door is just a proletarian and not her well-to-do dream man is marvelous) and putting moves on him (he doesn’t seem to notice, but his wife sure as hell does!), and when the baby is finally born two-thirds of the way through the movie she pleads with the Bennets and the hospital personnel to be allowed to hold him. Eventually she ambushes Christie Bennet on her way to a meeting at work, steals the baby and holes up with it in the Bennets’ home until both the Bennets and the cops figure out what’s happened, but before the cops come Christie Bennet confronts her on the second floor and Mallory goes over the stair railing and falls to her death, impaled on the shards of a glass coffee table and presumably killed both by the fall and the glass. (I had visions of Mitch coming home, seeing the mess and saying, “It’s O.K. I always hated that table anyway.”) It’s decently directed by Adrian Wills — whose best moment occurs during a hot soft-core porn scene in which the Bennets have rented a hotel room for a weekend getaway and are screwing in the shower while Mallory is all alone, riven both with sexual frustration and the pains of child-bearing, in her apartment, and the intercuts between the two tell us all we need to know about her desperation and her longing. Eventually the script explains that Mallory heard about the Bennets from a young woman Mitch had had an affair with, Jessica (Mylène Dinh-Robic), a friend of Mallory’s who confided in her about the married man she was seeing, including giving her the key information that he desperately wanted children and his wife couldn’t conceive any normally. So when Mallory’s boyfriend Greg dumped her over the same issue — she wanted children and he didn’t — she set her sights for Mitch and figured the way to his heart (and his bed, and his home) would be to have his and his wife’s baby for him and then somehow get her out of the way.

So far there’ve been two reviews of this movie posted on the site, one by someone hailing it as a breakthrough for Lifetime because it was relatively sophisticated and Christine Conradt’s usual collaborator, Douglas Jackson, didn’t direct it (though frankly I don’t think it would have been much different if he had!), while someone else summed up my creepy feelings about surrogacy in general: “I think the evil person in this movie is the rich pompous woman who pays 35k to the surrogate mother like she’s a high class escort. She makes the comment, ‘I’m gonna be a mother without the baby bump’ just prior to her and her husband about to get busy.” I couldn’t agree more — though the script of this movie tries to establish that there are medical reasons why Christie can’t just get pregnant (which still begs the question of why, if the Bennets can’t have a baby normally, they don’t adopt instead — though maybe Lifetime scheduled Stolen Child, about a couple who get in trouble when they adopt a baby from Moldova who, unbeknownst to them, was stolen, was supposed to be part of the program by reminding us that adoption isn’t a panacea either), she seems all too much the sort of lazy rich bitch imagined in the early days of surrogacy arrangements, who would pay a young woman from the 99 percent to have her baby for her so she could have the experience of motherhood without having to suffer the natural consequences of it. What’s even weirder is that in the final tag scene, Christie Bennet is shown as pregnant again — and given that she’s already had three miscarriages, are we really supposed to believe that she’s going to be able to bear a second child on her own after she needed a surrogate for her first one? Just asking, folks …