Producing Adults

Producing Adults, a portrayal of the relationships of thirty-somethings, was Finland’s official 2004 Oscar entry. Its subject matter–single women experimenting with lesbianism–and many of its scenarios are outside the scope of the typical American romantic film. However, Producing Adults ultimately follows familiar Hollywood conventions, despite a good deal of contrived novelty.

The main character, Venla (Minna Haapkyla), is a counselor at a fertility clinic. Her job reminds her daily of her own desire to have children and, accordingly, she tries to persuade her boyfriend of fifteen years, Antero (Kari-Pekka Toivonen), to settle down. He agrees and proposes, but, at the same time, tricks her into drinking a glass of champagne containing a morning-after pill—the first in a series of secret attempts to prevent Venla from conceiving. Antero does a poor job of covering his tracks and Venla discovers the pill trick in due course; but for reasons that remain obscure, she lets him stick around. That sequence highlights a recurring problem for Producing Adults: the boyfriends are cardboard-cutout idiots, when they aren’t being plain old deceitful bastards.

Speaking of which, Venla’s colleague Satu (Minttu Mustakallio) has her own man troubles in the form of a musician boyfriend whose main skill appears to be that he plays a mean game of Pong solitaire. Despite their irrational determination to stay with their current partners, Venla and Satu are frustrated enough to be a single Hollywood cliche away from starting their own flirtation. (In this case, that means that they get locked in the storeroom together.) Thereafter, it takes a long while for the pair to decide to throw caution to the winds. Of course, that decision complicates matters.

Mustakallio’s Satu is by far the most sympathetic character in the film, largely because she’s much warmer than the others. Conversely, Haapkyla’s Venla is unbearably dull and saturnine. The characters’ romantic confusion is the key point of the story, but Venla just seems to sleepwalk through her relationship crises. Some amusing episodes leaven the mix, including a nice spoof of the sillier forms of couples therapy. Likewise, the clever scene transitions and the sharp cinematography create some momentum. But the episodes of conflict and reconciliation are derivative in nearly every way, including the musical scoring. Simply adding a lesbian element to the standard chick-flick love triangle is not enough to make a film original or compelling.

Chris Pepus

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