Making the Grades
Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) wants a baby!
Unfortunately she is missing an essential element for the process—a man. Without any indication of The One on her horizon, she asks Clive (Eric Christian Olsen), her employee at the pet shop, if he will father her child. (It’s a request that smacks of sexual harassment.) After he refuses, she decides to forgo the traditional sequence of events—find a man, fall in love, get married, have a baby—and checks herself into a medical clinic for artificial insemination.
Then on the way home from her procedure, Zoe meets Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) after both of them climb into the same cab during a downpour. While their initial encounter isn’t necessarily love at first sight, the destined-to-be-together couple runs into one another again when Zoe goes to the farmers’ market with her sister Mona (Michaela Watkins) and sees Stan selling cheese. Later he shows up at the pet store for a book signing.
By the following weekend, Zoe is driving out to his farm where the two of them take a roll in the hay in the cheese barn (minus nudity but complete with sexual sounds and discussion). Then and there Zoe decides to admit she is pregnant. It is a bit of a shock for Stan to find out there is already a baby involved in this budding relationship. And for the two of them, the impending birth adds some additional strain to their romance.
This pair is hard to feel empathy for, especially Zoe. On one hand the pet shop owner says she is ready for the challenge of a baby and the lifetime of parenting that follows. But she is antsy about staying with Stan or placing any kind of trust in him. The premise results in not one or two, but several scenes where Zoe and Stan break up only to get back together without any indication that either of them have changed for the better.
Zoe’s single mother group is made up of equally extreme or underdeveloped characters. One of the pregnant women (Maribeth Monroe) insists that Zoe attend the natural birth of her baby. (The scene contains plenty of screaming, primal drumming, chanting and excrement jokes.)
The script also provides little motivation for Zoe’s maternal desires. It seems that every parent in this story is hassled, harried and fed up with their parental duties while every child is out of control. It is no wonder that Stan has reservations.
The screenplay contains other content concerns as well. Zoe consumes alcohol with dinner although she suspects she might be pregnant. The dialogue includes some strong crude sexual terms, a rude homosexual comment, frequent sexual innuendos and bowel-related jokes. Audiences also see Zoe’s bare buttocks and numerous portrayals of Stan and Zoe in bed together.
Rather than having The Back-up Plan in place, Zoe appears to be winging it one day at a time. And with less than nine months until the baby arrives, her difficulty with making commitments comes at a time when it seems she should be seriously thinking about her imminent responsibilities and who she wants to share them with.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Back-Up Plan.
Although Stan is willing to engage in sexual activity with Zoe after knowing her for only a short time, he seems irritated when he discovers she is pregnant. He is also upset by her lies, but not by his. Does this seem to be a double standard for behavior?
Do you think Zoe’s desire for a baby is a selfish one or not? Is her concern about being alone a sufficient reason to have a child? What aspects of being a mother does Zoe seem to have overlooked?
Does the portrayal of parents in this movie trivialize their role?