xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
Dramedy “Don’t Worry Baby” may not be all that memorable, but the premise sure is: A guy might be the biological father of his own father’s illegitimate child with another woman. It’s the Tribeca version of a “Maury” episode, dressed up with Millennial malaise and upper class mid-life crises, as told with an overly straight face and wholesale indie presentation. Debut writer/director Julian Branciforte eventually loses control of his tricky pitch, especially as his generic vision can't support the story with a distinct tone.
The film does have a narrative economy, covering a great deal of territory in the first 15-20 minutes. We meet a budding photographer named Robert (John Magaro, “The Big Short”), who is rejecting offers from his distant father, Harry (Christopher McDonald), to work for him. The night after a photo shoot, Robert meets a woman his age named Sara-Beth (Dreama Walker), they come back to his apartment together and—boom—the story jumps to four years later. A lot has changed: Robert's photography dreams have dissipated, and he now works at his dad’s prestigious downtown preschool; Harry has just enrolled Mason, his illegitimate daughter, into the class that Robert is overseeing. Robert soon meets the mother, and is shocked when it’s Sara-Beth. The math of conception is soon performed, and after realizing that he could be the father instead of Harry, a paternity test is taken, to their equal contention. From this point, the movie merely follows them around as they wait for the results, while they both sneakily vie for Sara-Beth and share time with Mason.
"Don't Worry Baby"'s perspective on this saga is appropriately unusual. It sidesteps the bizarreness of the situation by placing characters in a shared air of acceptance, but feels too light with the new, life-changing developments that await. Branciforte invests time in the dour headspace of possible-dad Robert, but there’s little dramatic tension. The animosity is clear in the fine chemistry between Magaro and McDonald, especially as disheveled Robert doesn’t believe that estranged dad Harry deserves a second chance, but Branciforte ultimately fails to make us care about paternity test results.
Dreama Walker has too little of a character to work with, despite playing the woman who gave birth to this contested child; Harry's ex-wife Miriam (Talia Balsam) tries to normalize the scenario by eye-rolling through her ex-husband getting a younger woman pregnant, but her response too feels idealized. By being so hands-off about its tense topics, a whole gender seems muted, and the movie fails to communicate an awareness beyond its macho showdown.
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