Nutting Up 

Single Motherhood and The Back-Up Plan

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WHAT ABOUT NUTS? In the ain't-life-funny romantic comedy The Back-Up Plan, Nuts is protagonist Zoe's (Jennifer Lopez) little Boston terrier. She bought him from a pet store that was clearly being supplied by puppy mills, as evidenced by Nuts' rapid decline—by the time we meet him at the opening of the film, he's getting around on wheels. Zoe was so appalled that she quit her vague job "in the corporate world," sold her company shares, and bought the pet store, where she says no to puppy mills and hosts book readings for the Dog Whisperer.

So things should be all good for Nuts—his owner being a compassionate rescuer who gave up the high-paying fast lane for his cause and all. And yet, over the course of the film, Nuts gets no love. Zoe only speaks to him in negatives like, "Nuts, don't beg!" as she mows out on morning bacon, or, "Nuts, quit staring at me!" as she tries to squeeze out pee onto a pregnancy test. Never once do we see her playing, snuggling, or even walking the dog (his front legs still work!). No, Nuts is an awkward piece of furniture in the apartment, whose wheels sometimes tip him over while Zoe goes through her dramas with Stan (Alex O'Loughlin), and who occasionally punctuates the goings on with a sad little sniffle. All that would not necessarily be surprising except that the entire premise of the film begins with Zoe's determination to be a nurturer, a mother.

Back-Up skirts around Zoe's age, but if casting can be trusted (?!) she is probably intended be around 40, like J.Lo, who was born in 1969. As a single, self-supported woman who very much wants to start a family, it's not surprising that she goes ahead and gets artificially inseminated. What's surprising is that she isn't anthropomorphizing the hell out of that adorable dog.

Then again, The Back-Up Plan isn't pretending to be about Nuts, or about how dynamic a character Zoe could be. It's about how she meets Stan—the one!—right after she's already been inseminated (awkwarrrd!), and how when he finally figures out why his new girlfriend is violently hungry, horny, and harfing, he decides to plunge ahead with the relationship. Together they learn about trust issues, the stroller industry, and that water births are totes gross. They also manage to level some pretty saddening insults at women who intentionally become single mothers. Also, at one point a kid offers his dad a handful of poo. Aw, Nuts.

The Back-Up Plan
Rated PG-13 · 98 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.theback-upplan.com
Director: Alan Poul
Writer: Kate Angelo
Producer: Todd Black, Jason Blumentahl and Steve Tisch
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Eric Christian Olsen, Noureen DeWulf, Donal Logue, Melissa McCarthy, Harold Gould, Jennifer Elise Cox, Linda Lavin and Michaela Watkins

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