False Positive review: Hulu's body horror is a sleek, strange misfire

·2 min read

Michael O'Neale/Hulu Justin Theroux and Ilana Glazer in 'False Positive'

Oh, what wayward offspring Rosemary's Baby has wrought. More than 50 years after the release of Roman Polanski's paranoic touchstone, Justin Theroux and Ilana Glazer star in False Positive (available on Hulu June 25), an impeccably stylized but oddly inert Rosemary redux set adrift somewhere between horror and camp.

The theme is the absurd Hunger Games of modern fertility and maybe the evils of the patriarchy, or something; the movie's targets seem both ambiguous and broad. It also doesn't help that Glazer and Theroux, usually such smart and wildly specific actors, share so little chemistry as a bourgeois New York couple struggling to conceive after two years of trying.

Lucy (Glazer) works in marketing, with a smarmy boss (8th Grade's Josh Hamilton) whose self-congratulatory wokeness goes about as deep as the lunch order (grilled tofu, wilted beet greens) he has her place for him daily. Theroux's Adrian (get it?) is some kind of reconstructive surgeon, and a devoted fan of his former mentor, a celebrated OB-GYN named Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan).

The suave, unctuous Hindle - and his beaming nurse, played by Gretchen Mol in a jaunty uniform the color of a rabbit's nose - promises results, and delivers almost immediately. Within weeks Lucy is expecting, but there are complications - one being that the good doctor may in fact have a direct line to the devil. Adrian, suspiciously, is all in on his various directives; Lucy can smell the sulfur a mile off, even as she second-guesses her growing unease, and the increasingly demonic images that come to her in lucid dreams.

The cinematography, by Pawel Pogorzelski (Midsommar, Hereditary), makes everything look crisp and almost clinically gorgeous; his is strictly the Manhattan of the one percent, the kind that's never met a mangy pigeon or a piece of trash. That makes for an unimpeachably clean backdrop when the blood comes, as it inevitably does. But it's also a symptom of the movie's central void when it comes to letting us get to know or care about any of its characters.

Adrian and Lucy might have been people at some point - Lucy misses her late mother desperately, and Adrian enjoys... working out? - but on screen their Peleton-couple blandness is so pervasive, it flattens into nothingness. Where is the Theroux who copenned films like Tropic Thunder and Glazer, the fantastically chaotic co-creator of Broad City? She and her director and co-writer John Lee (Wonder Showzen) might have had a lot to say about money and class and the evil that men (mostly rich white ones with great hair) do, but it all comes off as strangely enervating and flat-footed in the end: a story without a genre, or a point. Grade: C-

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