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‘Nine Months’ (PG-13)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 14, 1995

I FEEL terribly sorry for Hugh Grant. But I'm not referring to that titillating controversy in real life, which starred the British actor and a hooker called Divine. I'm talking about "Nine Months," the pitiful little comedy he had just finished before his infamous arrest.

In this grotesquely pandering caper, child psychiatrist Grant discovers that his girlfriend (Julianne Moore) is pregnant. He spends most of the movie in a British fluster—railing at the changes a new baby (and the inevitable marriage) will bring to his life. He gets red in the face. He grimaces. He winces. He stammers. He tugs at his hair. You wonder if there's a doctor he can go to for this condition.

For those whose Schadenfreude has gotten the better of them, the question is: Does this movie provide some ironic laughs, vis-a-vis the Hollywood Incident? Well sure, there are one or two opportunities for taunting—particularly when Grant's sexual frustration builds to near madness as Moore goes through those initial, morning-sickness stages.

But as the movie progresses (and I use the verb advisedly), such jokey sentiments are soon forgotten. More significantly, "Nine Months," which is based on Patrick Braoude's recent French comedy, "Neuf Mois," starts to drag on like a real pregnancy. You wish it would hurry up and deliver.

For Grant and Moore, being in the family way means meeting tedious subplot characters. They encounter recently separated (and narcissistically pumped) Jeff Goldblum, who is about to discover life with babes but without children is not so wonderful. And they bump continuously into the happily married couple from hell: obnoxious car salesman Tom Arnold (whose unintentionally obvious makeup suggests all kinds of dark secrets) and his perpetually expecting wife, Joan Cusack (playing weird and wacky again). Thanks to the energetic Arnold, some of these encounters are amusing, particularly when the salesman mistakenly thinks Grant is unconscious and administers mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the horrified Englishman.

The plodding, utterly predictable scenario is wonderfully interrupted by Robin Williams, as Moore's new Russian doctor, who has only just graduated from his veterinary practice to human doctoring. He has a chronic language problem. After informing Moore he's a doctor of "obstruction," he realizes his mistake and mutters into his Dictaphone: "Not obstruction, it's obstetrics!"

Moore is reduced to a cliche—a whiny, frustrated homemaker, who goes through the textbook ups and downs of pregnancy, demanding that Grant make a commitment. And with his insufferable muggings and gosh-I-can't-seem-to-stop-myself-being-cute mannerisms, Grant acts as if every encounter with a human being is cause for paroxysms of embarrassment. This professional child psychiatrist can't even deal with a preteen girl informing him she's in love with him. But that's Hollywood writing for you.

Director Chris Columbus injects isolated moments of energy into the film. In a cathartic scene for many parents, Arnold and Grant beat up an obnoxious, pushy man dressed in an "Arty" padded suit—clearly a Columbus dig at the "Barney" fascist empire. But the script's mostly a bedtime snoozer from beginning to end. As if desperate to save the movie, Columbus goes into farcical overdrive in the delivery room finale: Moore pants and puffs, Cusack (sharing the room and also delivering) does the same, Williams dances crazily between the two of them, and Grant and Arnold duke it out on the floor. At this point, Columbus should have been muttering advice into his own Dictaphone, about making a movie next time that's more than just hysterics.

NINE MONTHS (PG-13) — Contains sexual situations, profanity and terminal nuttiness.

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