Friday, June 30, 2017

In Theaters/On VOD: INCONCEIVABLE (2017)

(US/UK - 2017)

Directed by Jonathan Baker. Written by Chloe King. Cast: Gina Gershon, Faye Dunaway, Nicolas Cage, Nicky Whelan, Natalie Eva Marie, Jonathan Baker, James Van Patten, Sienna Soho Baker, Harlow Bottarini, Ele Bardha, Corrie Danieley, Tyler Jon Olson. (R, 106 mins)

A de facto remake of the 2015 Will Ferrell/Kristen Wiig Lifetime thriller A DEADLY ADOPTION as well as 2016's WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS, INCONCEIVABLE is the kind of glossy "(blank) from Hell" thriller that was a multiplex fixture back in the 1990s. INCONCEIVABLE had the chance to be trashy fun, especially with a script penned by Chloe King, daughter of softcore auteur Zalman King (writer of 9 1/2 WEEKS, director of TWO MOON JUNCTION), and a writer on her late dad's erotic Showtime series RED SHOE DIARIES, plus the presence of a couple of slumming Oscar winners, but it takes itself far too seriously. It's the feature directing debut of Jonathan Baker, an L.A. entrepreneur with deep ties to the entertainment industry and, well, don't take it from me. Take it from Baker's IMDb bio that was in no way written by Jonathan Baker:

"On the surface, Jonathan Baker is an eclectic personality, Upon closer examination, however, it comes to light that for years his every endeavor and adventure have all been achieved with the same goal in mind: entertaining people by making their dreams come true. His close involvement with the entertainment industry, as well as his ownership of the #1 rated day spa in the country both served as evidence of that love for realizing dreams."

Yes, it was his love of realizing dreams that led to Baker's defining moment: berating and shoving his then-wife, former Playboy Playmate Victoria Fuller, when they came in second in a race on a 2004 episode of THE AMAZING RACE, an incident that immediately put him in the elite company of universally loathed reality show assholes like THE REAL WORLD's Puck, THE APPRENTICE's Omarosa, and, more recently, the guy on SURVIVOR who outed a transgender contestant. But we're not here to judge Baker's past. We're here to talk about INCONCEIVABLE, and Baker is about as good a director as he is a sport about coming in second.

A thriller that couldn't be any sillier if Wallace Shawn periodically popped up to blurt the title at every ludicrous plot reveal, INCONCEIVABLE focuses on affluent husband-and-wife doctors Brian (Nicolas Cage) and Angela Morgan (Gina Gershon), who have the perfect life in an impossibly huge mansion with five-year-old daughter Cora (Harlow Bottarini), conceived with a donor egg after the couple endured four miscarriages. Angela's friend Linda (Natalie Eva Maria) introduces her to Katie (Nicky Whelan, Cage's co-star in LEFT BEHIND and DOG EAT DOG), a single mom of four-year-old Maddie (Sienna Soho Baker, the director's daughter). The kids become instant best friends, as do the moms, but no one knows Katie's secret (well, one of them anyway), revealed in a prologue: she murdered her abusive husband when Maddie was a baby, and has been living under an alias, moving from town to town since. Angela and Katie are fast friends, with Angela asking Katie to move into the guest house and be Maddie's nanny, but Brian's meddling mother Donna (Faye Dunaway), who lives in another guest house on the property, has a bad feeling about her, and of course, she's right. Brian and Angela decide to have another baby, this time with a surrogate, using the second donor egg harvested from the first pregnancy with Cora, and they ask Linda to carry it. This upsets Katie, with whom Linda is having a secret fling. Katie reveals that her finding Brian and Angela was no coincidence, as she provided the anonymous donor egg for Cora and that she wants to take her and raise her as Maddie's sister. And she also wants to carry the other egg she donated, which means being in a position to step in as the surrogate mother, which necessitates drowning Linda and passing it off as a boating accident. This was not a boat accident!

INCONCEIVABLE is terrible but take the small victories where you can: it actually remembers "I before E except after C." It's is so indebted to the "(blank) from Hell" concept that it's both a Nanny-from-Hell and a Surrogate Mother-from-Hell thriller, but there's no suspense because Baker has no idea how to present an interesting plot reveal. He constantly shows his cards too soon and can't stop tripping over his own leaden feet. Characters constantly drop exposition into casual conversation that feels stilted and awkward (Angela's miscarriages, her past Xanax abuse), and the plot moves in a completely unreal way with characters doing stupid things, as when Brian demands a urine sample to see if Angela's clean after Katie accuses her of pill-popping, and Angela gives the sample to Katie to take to the lab?! Linda's drowning is immediately followed by Angela and Donna having breakfast and Angela saying "Katie was great when Linda was killed in that boating accident." Wait, you mean the drowning that we just saw? Exactly how much time has passed?  I'm surprised they didn't get up from the table and have Angela say "Remember when we had breakfast and talked about how great Katie was?" When Katie announces she's moving to Colorado for a job, Angela immediately blurts "You can't just leave! Why don't you move into our guest house? You could also be our part-time nanny," with Brian nodding "Absolutely." People don't talk or make important decisions like this. The characters rely on suppositions and assumptions (Angela's phone call to the egg donor facility is a howler), and of course, Brian's younger brother Barry works in a DNA lab and comes through in the end with a key piece of evidence to save the day. It should go without saying that Barry is played by...you guessed it...Jonathan Baker.

It's nice to see Gershon getting a leading role, but she's better than this uninspired garbage. Academy Award-winner Dunaway, following her triumphant appearance in THE BYE BYE MAN, is thoroughly wasted and only has a few brief scenes, despite her second billing. And it's INCONCEIVABLE how Nic Cage got to here, exactly 20 years to the week that the classic FACE/OFF was unleashed in theaters: third-billed in a vanity project by an infamous reality show douchebag. Cage is an Oscar-winning actor who, at some point, made the conscious decision to play the thankless Matt McCoy role in a belated HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE ripoff 35 years into his career. Cage has one "Cage" moment near the end, but he's on total autopilot here, visibly not giving the slightest whiff of a shit playing the obligatory clueless husband who has no idea what's going on in his own mansion. It's also unclear what kind of a doctor he is, since he's never seen leaving the house or arriving home with a bag or any kind of files indicating that he's employed, and is almost always seen wearing jeans and a leather jacket. I'm willing to bet that Baker wanted to play Brian, but someone, whether it was Lionsgate, Grindstone, Emmett/Furla, or any of the six production companies and 25 credited producers involved other than his own "Baker Entertainment Group," vetoed that and insisted on someone notable who could actually act, or once had acted. Baker is just dreadful in his scenes as Barry, and as a director, he's a great day spa owner. None of that stops the auteur from showing off the least humble production company logo ever, one that's shockingly not accompanied by an image of a smiling Baker with a "ting" gleaming off of his teeth. He also extends his personal gratitude to none other than Warren Beatty in the closing credits. And Warren thought the Best Picture debacle at the Oscars would be his biggest movie-related embarrassment of the year?


  1. What an asshole!!! I thought you were writing a review on the film not me. I also want to know what film you have directed or produced ever? Have you seen birdman asshole. You are her.

  2. I'm dying!

    Mr. Baker, you kill me... I liked you for getting Gina to be in your movie (as you already know, she makes ANYTHING watchable!), but your comment here is THE BEST THING EVER and I like you even more!!

    You go, dude!