“OK, you are freaking out about something. You were quiet the entire flight,
and you watched The Back Up Plan all the way through. Are you OK?”
~Gus, Psych, Season 5 episode 10, “Extradition II: The Actual Extradition Part”
It’s a question that has to be asked…
Of the reasons I have heard explaining why people have never watched The Back Up Plan, the number one reason is “can’t stand J-Lo.” Which, that’s valid, just like it’s OK if you never re-watched The Oyster Farmer because it’s completely boring. (Ha ha! I kid!)
Other folks have trouble with the Romantic Comedy genre, which is pretty unavoidable in this case. There’s no way to spin TBUP so it’s not a rom-com. Well, it’s got a little bit of slapstick/gross-out humor thrown in, so there’s that. But let’s own up: TBUP is a complete sentimental fantasy — and never more so than when it comes to Alex’s character, Stan the Cheese Farmer. No such man exists on planet earth, his list of virtues is long and his faults, inconsequential. So in case you were wondering and I’m interested to hear yours)…
Reasons I Watched The Back Up Plan. All the way through. More than once.
1) Alex O’Loughlin stars
Now this reason is not enough for some people and I get that. I’ve seen Oyster Farmer & Mary Bryant but none of Alex’s other movies. No plans to, either. So it’s a factor, but not a clincher for everyone.
But for me it’s a very big reason. Stan may be a rom-com fantasy dream-man, too patient, too thoughtful, too earnest to be real, but Alex really succeeds in making Stan believable. He’s vulnerable. He gets overwhelmed. He has to think things through. He’s kind of a doofus. Most of which is expressed through Alex’s performance, not necessarily the script or the storyline. Perhaps it is just Alex’s lot in life to bring his considerable talents to what is at times less-than-worthy material. Regardless, Stan is a gem, an emotional BAMF, and a real treat to watch.
2) It has the most fantastic supporting guest cast. Some of these performances/characters are just too good to miss.
Michaela Watkins plays Zoe’s best friend Mona, a mother of many children who encourages Zoe with practical, realistic advice. She’s the loyal best friend who steps in when Zoe’s at her lowest point.
Eric Christian Olsen has a small but (of course) charming role as Zoe’s snarky pet shop employee. Super adorbs. The fact that Zoe owns a pet shop is not really key to the movie. It (kinda) explains why Zoe owns a disabled dog, but for as much as it impacted the storyline, she could have been a tax accountant or a grade school teacher. It is just one of those rom-com tropes — the heroine’s quirky, endearing job.
Anthony Anderson‘s character doesn’t have a name, but even so, probably steals the movie away from everyone as the man who explains the joys of fatherhood to a stressed-out Stan. His scenes are not to be missed, they reveal the true heart of the movie to me.
Melissa McCarthy has a rep for being the funniest lady on TV & in the movies these days and as someone who’s loved her since Gilmore Girls, it’s a real treat to see her in this film. She plays Carol, a bit of a stereotypical man-hater but her comedic timing is so spot on, her character really delivers the awkward, uncomfortable laughs.
I wasn’t going to include Daneel Ackles in the list of the movie’s stars since her part is small, but do a quick search of posts tagged “The Back Up Plan” on tumblr – about half the most recent posts feature Daneel – girl has some hardcore fans! Daneel’s character Olivia is also a farmers’ market vendor and study-buddy of Stan; they also casually dated.
Linda Lavin plays Zoe’s active-retiree Grandmother, Nana, her other confidant and sounding board.
Nana’s significant other is Arthur, played by Tom Bosley in what was to be his last IMDB entry – he passed away 6 months after the movie’s release.
Finally, Jennifer Elise Cox plays a small but pivotal role as a shop girl at a baby supply superstore.
This is one area where I can unreservedly say The Back Up Plan shines — this supporting cast is flawless.
3) It is a great example of the genre, so spoiler alert here is the outline of the plot of this and most every other romantic comedy: A (mostly) endearingly flawed woman, thus far unlucky in love, is going about her life, when *poof* Mr. Perfect appears. He falls for her instantly, and intensely, and regardless of her every (conscious and subconscious) attempt to sabotage the relationship, he holds on to his love for her and weathers the storm of her emotions/situations/issues. They each achieve success in a personal/professional goal(s) and they live happily ever after together.
If the point of rom-coms is to rekindle your faith in the idea of true love, that there’s a person out there for you who will overcome whatever obstacles to be with you, then by that measure this movie is a success.
So those are my reasons for watching TBUP.
Now, The Back Up Plan is the story of Zoe, she is pretty much in every scene and there are many scenes of just her, or just her and one/some of the supporting characters that are not Alex/Stan. Now perhaps you are not at all interested in these scenes that don’t feature Alex/Stan and that is fair. So — to that end, I bring you my recap/review of:
The Alex-Only/J-Lo Lite Version of TBUP!
Please note: These “Scene Names” are mine, not official from the DVD or anything. The times listed are the times (based on the dvd counter) that Alex is on-screen. So, for example, the first time starts with “Minute 7:10,” meaning Alex is not in the movie for the first 7 minutes 9 seconds.
New York based single gal Zoe has decided to be artificially inseminated in an attempt to become pregnant – she has everything she wants but a family. Since there’s no man in her life and she feels the clock is ticking, she takes this step alone. Insemination accomplished, she immediately steps out into the world and meets Stan when they jump into the same cab. They argue, and a smitten Stan follows her into the subway. Not interested in pursuing anything with this persistent man since she is perfectly happy to even be hopeful that she is pregnant, Zoe leaves him behind on the sidewalk.
Visiting the farmer’s market, Zoe and Mona walk past an artisanal cheese stand – that just so happens to be owned by Stan. Stan teases Zoe that she’s following him around but it’s obvious that all (well, at least, most) of the interest is on his side. Although it’s too soon to tell if Zoe is yet pregnant, she is literally eating free samples of farmer’s market bread and cheese by the basketful. Olivia, who sells homemade bread at the market, is obviously crushing hard on Stan and is immediately wary and jealous of Zoe.
Zoe’s shop is hosting an evening seminar from a pet expert when Stan shows up. She invites him to get lost but instead they both end up leaving the shop to get something to eat. They get to know each other a little bit and the sparks fly.
In what is some of the worst timing by anyone ever, Zoe is in the midst of taking her pregnancy test when Stan arrives for their date. A bit of gross-out humor follows as Zoe’s dog, Nuts, eats the stick she just peed on. Zoe gives up on the test and leaves.
Zoe and Stan’s date is at a local community garden which Stan has decked out with about a billion dollars’ worth of Christmas lights. They eat, but a spilled glass of wine leads to (in true rom-com fashion) setting the table on fire, which leads to a water fight with a hose. Dinner portion of the date is over! Stan walks Zoe back home, leaving her with a memorable kiss. Zoe goes into her apartment and finds Nuts has barfed up the pee stick and it clearly shows she is pregnant.
Since things are going so well between them, Stan invites Zoe up to his farm for the weekend. Zoe embarrasses herself by driving her car into a tree – eyes not on the road but understandably rubber-necking at a shirtless Stan on his tractor.
Zoe, psyching herself up to tell Stan she is pregnant, further embarrasses herself by eating his homemade chili stew, straight out of the pot with her bare hands, but he still (inexplicably) is as taken with her as ever. That evening, he gives her a tour of the farm and they talk more about their lives and their pasts. A kiss in the barn quickly leads to more, and after a passionate, and yes literal roll in the hay, Zoe breaks the news to Stan about her pregnancy.
Taken aback by how she could keep such a crucial secret to herself, Stan walks off. <–Click here Paula, click here.
After having spent the night on the couch, Stan wakes to the sound of Zoe’s car creaking out of his driveway. He asks her not to leave, things looking different to him after having slept on them, since he felt he was also keeping secrets. For example, he hadn’t told her he was taking night classes because he was embarrassed to not have already finished college. However, she is adamant that the relationship won’t work out and leaves.
Stan comes back to New York, and knocks on Zoe’s door. She lets him in and they reconcile. He says he is “all in” this relationship, for Zoe and her unborn child.
He accompanies her to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound, and (in what is currently the pinnacle of Alex’s career as a comedy actor) Stan and Zoe are both shocked to learn she is carrying twins. After the appointment they talk things over at the park, and an overwhelmed Stan, wondering what exactly he has gotten himself into, leaves Zoe on a bench to walk off some of his nervous stress.
Watching some kids play in the park, Stan meets a man, the father of young boys. The man is a calming influence on Stan, expressing how the joys of fatherhood are more than ample reward for the moments of terror that come along with it. Lots of “awful” times though. Lots. Of. Them.
Getting back into her cab after leaving her (last) single mother’s meeting (now that she is dating Stan, she is no longer eligible to be in that particular group) Zoe is met by Stan who reaffirms his desire to be with her and be a father to her children.
Stan re-visits his friend and fatherhood mentor at the park. It’s touching, funny and real as the men discuss the trials, tribulations and pleasures of relating to a woman overcome by the hormones, emotions and physical changes of pregnancy.
Stan is studying his economics when Zoe comes home from shopping at the baby supply superstore. She has purchased a twin stroller that won’t even fit through the door. Flailing into the apartment, the shopping bags seem to multiply exponentially as an increasingly manic Zoe stresses to Stan how much they will need in order to properly feed and clothe two children. Feeding off Zoe’s emotion, Stan kind of starts to freak out again. Zoe invites him to leave her anytime he wants. He, again, emphasizes his commitment to her.
Tackling his fears head-on, Stan goes to the baby supply store to find a better fitting twin stroller. He makes a deal with the shop girl for a custom order, knowing the final product will take a few weeks to arrive.
He goes to take one of his exams but can’t focus on the work in front of him, consumed with worry about Zoe and the twins and their future. He walks out of the exam, leaving it unfinished.
Zoe is going through old pictures, sharing with Stan, and her reminisces and nostalgia lead to some bittersweet and intimate disclosures about her childhood. The two continue to bond as they get to know each other better.
A phone call from one of Zoe’s friends from her old single mother’s group has Zoe and Stan leaving the apartment in the middle of the night to attend the friend’s home birth.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, Stan is absent for the middle portion of the birth scene, but it’s still worth watching for the sheer horror/hilarity of the performances.
Back at the farmer’s market, Zoe runs into Olivia for the first time since they day the met, prior to Stan and Zoe dating. Olivia is stunned to see Zoe so pregnant, assuming that Stan is the biological father, and when Stan says that the babies “aren’t his,” Zoe is shocked and takes it the wrong way, even after Stan does his best to explain what he meant.
As proof of his commitment, he tells Zoe that he has dropped out of school to focus on work and saving money. Zoe doesn’t see that as commitment, just further proof that Stan isn’t ready for fatherhood and family. He pleads with her, but she is adamant that the relationship is now over.
Eight long Stan-less minutes follow in which all of Zoe’s friends and relatives try to help her to adjust to the single life again, though they disagree with her reasons for breaking it off with Stan. She is encouraged to confront her trust issues by friends and family who are still supportive of all her decisions.
Zoe is home the day the special-order twin stroller is delivered and this proves to her that Stan was in fact truly dedicated to her and starting their family.
We find Stan at the farmer’s market, bitterly attempting to sell his latest cheese called “The Zoe.”
Zoe has gone into labor and rushes into the farmers market to find Stan. She says she loves him and believes in their relationship and they rush off to the hospital together… sometime later, back at the apartment we see Stan and the two babies cuddling before he puts them to bed and it is truly too sweet for words!
Stan, having successfully focused on his work, has graduated from the farmer’s market and opened a small cheese shop. At the grand opening celebration, he proposes marriage to Zoe and she accepts.
While Stan and Zoe are out with the twins in their stroller, Zoe suddenly moves to the nearest trashcan and wildly pukes her guts out. The look on her face when she emerges tells the tale – Zoe is pregnant again!
The entire movie, with credits, runs 1:44:09. It’s not too much of your life wasted if you end up hating it and really! I mean, just scroll back up there and back down again. IT’S STAN.
Screencaps from bookemdanno.net