Thursday, April 27, 2023

Clock, on Hulu

Lately, streaming services really seem to be out to discredit fertility doctors, like Rachel Wiesz’s disturbed twins in Prime’s Dead Ringers and Pierce Brosnan’s creepy villain in Hulu’s False Positive. Hulu has another one to add to the list. Technically, Dr. Elizabeth Simmons is not administering fertility treatments. She will try to fix Ella Patel’s “biological clock,” so her maternal instincts will finally kick in. Unfortunately, she might rewire her patient so much, she loses her mind in screenwriter-director Alexis Jacknow’s Clock, which premieres tomorrow on Hulu.

Even though all the Patels’ friends are having rugrats, she remains obstinately opposed to parenthood. Sensing her attitude is starting to be an issue with her husband, Patel considers her new doctor’s referral to Dr. Simmons’ cutting-edge clinic. Her problem might be physical, but not one of low potency. If she can reset her body’s internal clock, she might suddenly want som dirty, smelly children of her own.

Basically, Jacknow invites us to buy into the notion Patel would voluntarily agree to be gaslit into wanting children and then feel surprised when she gets driven all the way out to crazy town. Of course, kneejerk critics will defend the film as a critique of the way medicine disempowers women, but it isn’t their place to convince us. Jacknow needs to do that on the screen, but it never happens.

What Patel’s body goes through at Simmons’ clinic is absolutely horrendous, in a David Cronenberg kind of way. Ill-advisedly, Jacknow somewhat lessens the impact of the body horror with some is-she-nuts-or-not gamesmanship that weirdly undermines what was presumably the whole point of the film. The subplot involving her aging father, the son of Holocaust survivors, also pushes the bounds of exploitation, using his survivors’ guilt to fuel her neurotic perspective on pregnancy.

Nevertheless, the great character actor Saul Rubinek is terrific as Patel’s dad, Joseph. He finds the dignity in a somewhat shticky character. To be fair, Dianna Agron gives a tour-de-force performance as Ella Patel. Ironically, it might be too good, because the circumstances surrounding her freakouts often have serious credibility issues. Alas, Melora Hardin plays Dr. Simmons suspiciously cool and calm, but without sufficient scenery-chewing villainy to arouse viewers’ passions. Frankly, the tone of the performances just seem to clash, which ultimately falls on Jacknow’s shoulders.

There are a handful of images in
Clock that might make sensitive viewers faint. Unfortunately, the rest of the film lacks that kind of power. Like too many recent horror movies, Clock presumably gave first priority to the message and backfilled the thrills and scares where they fit. It should always be done the opposite way. Not recommended, Clock starts streaming tomorrow (2/28) on Hulu.