Making the wrong ‘Selection’
Lindy (Rachael Harris) and Abe (Jon Diehl) have been married for 24 years. They’re religiously devout and live in Texas. She can’t have kids. He thinks it’s sinful to have sex other than for procreation, so they don’t. Then Abe has a stroke. That’s bad. It happens while he’s at a fertility clinic watching a pornographic video to assist him in providing a sperm donation. That’s really bad. It turns out that, unknown to Lindy, he’s been doing this for years. That’s worse. But worst of all is a semi-conscious Abe telling Lindy in the intensive-care unit that he has a grown son.
What’s a wife to do? Lindy manages to find out the name and address of the son, jumps in the car, and heads off as fast as she can for Florida in search of Raymond.
This is an offbeat, even slightly promising premise. Then predictably implausible things begin to happen. Raymond (Matt O’Leary) turns out to be an ex-con druggie with a foul mouth and the appeal of a discarded syringe. What passes for humor —“Natural Selection” is a comedy-drama — is Raymond malapropisms like referring to Abe as his “bilateral father.” Actually, Lindy gets the funniest line. Talking on the phone to her brother-in-law (Jon Gries), Lindy tries to be somewhat truthful, as well as reassuring, when asked whether Raymond has a job. “It looks like he’s some sort of chemist,” she says.
Harris, who plays the mother in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movies, holds up her end. She manages to make believable and sympathetic Lindy’s combination of resignation, anger, neediness, and confusion. She’s the one good thing in “Natural Selection.”
The movie has elements of road picture, social satire, and odd-couple romance, but mostly it’s about lack of pacing and tone. Somewhere very (very) deep in here is a whiff of “Citizen Ruth,” and who knows what Alexander Payne might have done with this material. Instead we know what writer-director Robbie Pickering has done with it, and that ain’t much.
Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.