Conception: Movie Review

A thin though intermittently amusing romantic comedy about nine romantic couples on the verge of conception.

The film, starring David Arquette and Gregory Smith, is one rom-com that realizes romance can lead to biological consequences.

Conception is a high-concept, low-budget comedy that drops in on nine couples the night they conceive a child, which in several cases was not the intended consequence. The film is understandably too sketchy to dig deeply into any of these relationships but the film does underscore what most rom-coms cheerfully ignore — that sex has a biological as well as a recreational function.

Writer-director Josh Stolberg, who has written a number of films and TV shows as well as directed two previous indie films, keeps the pace brisk yet allows each couple enough time for soul searching or intense confrontations to highlight the nature of their relationships.

The film is playing festivals these days in search of a distributor, which may be a long shot given the lack of names other than David Arquette in a sequence that brackets the nine stories told randomly and in bits and pieces.

Only a few couples are in the first blush of romance. More are involved in long-standing relationships or marriages where familiarity has bred either contentment or dysfunction that has drained passion from the relationships.

One sleep-deprived woman (Jennifer Jostyn) has a newborn, which doesn’t allow much love for her sex-deprived husband (Alan Tudyk), although the real reason for a lack of intimacy is that she can’t stand what having a baby did to her body. Two other married couples (Jonathan Silverman & Jennifer Finnigan andAmerica Olivo & Tim Griffin) seem to need a squabble to get them going — one a more serious kind than the other.

Two couples need help to conceive. A squeamish husband (Jason Mantzoukas) must inject his nurse-wife (Connie Britton) with hormones to aide her fertility while a lesbian couple (Pamela Adlon & Moon Bloodgood) shares candlelight and a container of donated sperm.

The riskier sequences involve couples that don’t seem right for parenthood. One involves teenagers, where the girl (Sarah Hyland) trades her virginity for the boy’s (Matt Prokop) vow to eat vegetarian. In another, a divorcee (Julie Bowen) with a teenage daughter coerces her boy toy (Gregory Smith) into making a sex video. A couple (Aaron Ashmore & Leah Pipes) on the verge of a tumultuous break-up seems equally unlikely candidates for parenthood.

Since Stolberg is determined to keep things light and comic, the consequences of several unwanted pregnancies, including for one couple on a blind date (Steve Howey & Leila Charles Leigh), are shoved aside in favor of snapshots of healthy babies and smiling parents, even if those smiles quickly fade moments later.

For a slapdash, no-time-to-think indie production, Conception rolls out with surprising confidence. Split screens hurry things along as well as contrast different couples. No sequence overstays its welcome. Meanwhile Noah Rosenthal’s red camera cinematography gets the movie into all the dark corners of a bedroom — or shower stall, hallway and car seats — where love ambushes these characters.

Venue: Beverly Hills Film Festival
Production company: Rock It Productions
Cast: David Arquette, Gregory Smith, Julie Bowen, Sarah Hyland, Pamela Adlon, Jonathan Silverman, Connie Britton
Director/screenwriter: Josh Stolberg
Producers: Stephanie Sherrin, Leila Charles Leigh
Director of photography: Noah Rosenthal
Production designer: Melissa Krystofiak
Music: Cody Westheimer
Editor: Naomi Sunrise Filorama
No rating, 86 minutes