When the Bough Breaks, starring Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall and Jaz Sinclair, is billed as a drama/horror/mystery. None of these words come close to describing what this movie really is… A mess. It is the story of a couple with fertility issues who engage a beautiful, young, crazy, unvetted surrogate who turns their seemingly idyllic life into a nightmare of sorts.
Written by Jack Olsen, When the Bough Breaks borrows from a number of established, successful movies in this genre, including but not limited to, Jagged Edge (1985), Fatal Attraction (1987) and Sleeping with the Enemy (1991). If you notice the years on these films, you will realize that the market is full with a slew of films that have attempted to imitate their success, and failed. They fail by borrowing the positive elements of these films and leaving those elements to stand on their own – as if that is all a film needs to be good. These movies were full of great acting, engaging stories and believable plot twists that made sense – making anything “crazy” that happened or that may have seemed a bit unlikely, forgivable. They were full of mystery and suspense. Imitations fail by not using the elements of these movies in a cohesive, logical way and not supporting the elements with good writing.
More was needed to make When the Bough Breaks seem like something that could really happen to anyone in real life. It is lazy movie making at its worst (which I hate to see and hate to write about even more), with the plot relying on characters doing ridiculous things to move the story along. Ridiculous things like hiring a surrogate with no background check who just happened into the surrogate agency office that day, inviting strangers into their home, failing to set boundaries when some heifer “borrows” your dress and beats you at a game of “who wore it best,” disclosing far too much personal information to strangers in the context of a business relationship, having guns at your beach house but none at your primary residence – which is a glass structure worth millions that has no apparent security system. Even strapping a baby into a car seat somehow manages to land on the “stupid things to do” list in this movie. Twice. The list of ridiculous acts goes on and on.
I suspect that black people, generally speaking (I’ll go out on a limb here and assume we will most likely make up the majority of the audience, and I’m speaking for myself right now – so don’t go getting all up in arms), will be particularly ticked off at this movie as I repeatedly heard “We would never do that” or “This must be written by some white people.” Surely, whoever wrote it (Jack Olsen), regardless of whatever ethnicity he may claim, needs to go back and try again. The plot is full of holes and the story becomes more and more implausible as we go along. I enjoy seeing diversity in film making and I feel like it should always be a positive thing for studios to do, and I love when it is done correctly. I believe there are many rich, original, diverse stories to be told by people of all ethnicities. But inserting black people into a stale movie and a somewhat stale genre, will not make anything fresh or new again – particularly when the movie has a soggy plot line to begin with and is very poorly written.
Nothing is all bad, and witnessing Jaz Sinclair’s decent into madness during her pregnancy was a pleasure. Also, the imperfections in this marriage that seemed so perfect from the outside were interesting points.
When the Bough Breaks earned 4 out of 10 bloops. I can’t even describe in words how poor I thought this movie was. It could have been good, but fails at every single turn. A waste of film and a waste of my time, except I went with my beautiful family and had a chance to create a memory of 7 people agreeing they did NOT care for the film selection. But if you want to see some black people looking quite lovely and doing pretty solid acting while doing some really stupid things, then this might be your movie.