My god that was disappointing. I’m tempted to leave this review at that, along with a stern warning not to part with folding money in exchange for a viewing, but I suppose I should say a little more.
I say ‘disappointing’ because I was really looking forward to this movie and because it completely failed to satisfy any of my expectations. The central premise has an amoral young lawyer from California called Ian (Joshua Leonard) falling in love with a sweet Polish girl called Joanna (Agnieszka Grochowska), moving to Poland, and experiencing humorous ‘culture shock’ type situations. There’s a great and very funny movie to be made from that story, but this ain’t it boys and girls.
Ian (Joshua Leonard) and Joanna (Agnieszka Grochowska) completely failing to convince anyone that they’re in love.
Expecting Love is some kind of joint US-Polish production. I’m guessing it wasn’t a happy cooperation. Certainly the end result resembles a poorly stitched together Frankenstein’s monster rather more than a seamless marriage. It looks and sounds exactly like a classic American romantic comedy, but the story is shot through with jarringly unpleasant themes and characters. It’s a queasy combination, rather like taking a huge gulp of what you think is apple juice only to discover it’s actually rusty turpentine with 27 spoon-fulls of sugar in it.
Case in point. Joanna, when she discovers she’s pregnant, persuades Ian to come to Poland by pretending she’s under age and thereby laying him open to a charge of statutory rape. Now, I can imagine a darkly humorous movie in which this idea might play, but it just doesn’t fit in the kind of movie where the hero and heroine have their first big kiss when they get caught in the rain and the heroine has to have a slightly camp gay friend (Marcin Bosak). It’s like watching some bizarre collision between Will and Grace and Decalogue 6.
Caught in the rain = romantic kiss.
The most annoying thing about this movie is that, occasionally, it demonstrates how good it could have been. The scenes in which Ian runs into language problems with immigration officials and the police are very nicely played (Maciej Kowalewski and Maciej Wierzbicki are good here, don’t know if they’re already well-known). But even here there’s a weird disconnect between the sweet and glossy tone and the cops beating seventeen kinds of crap out of Ian when then find him sleeping on a bench. Okay, I’ll watch the movie in which the Polish police beat the stuffing out of a lost foreigner and then bung him in the klink and I’ll watch the movie in which the Polish police are charmingly bumbling fellows who offer a lost foreigner a cell to sleep in for the night, but put them both in the same movie and I get a headache in my sense of humor.
Mikołaj Grabowski doing acting, Agnieszka Grochowska apparently dead.
If I may gripe further. Agnieszka Grochowska is appalling, she delivers her English lines as if she was reading from a phonetic autocue and completely fails to engage the audience. Frankly I didn’t care in the slightest if Ian paid for her operation or left her to turn tricks on Poznańska. Warsaw is portrayed as consisting entirely of a short stretch of Krakowskie Przedmieście, a completely atypical suburban street somewhere in Żoliborz, and the roof garden of the university library. After months of teaching English to Polish students Ian still can’t pronounce ‘tata.’ If he really tried to live in that flat he’d be dead from frostbite by the middle of December. I didn’t like it… you may be getting that message by now.
Final verdict: If you can manage it without paying watch it up until the part with the police then give up, nothing remotely funny or interesting happens after that.