A bad scripts sucks all the air out of Ultrasound
Written by Ian Thomas Malone, Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture
The success of a magic trick largely hinges on the performer’s ability to keep their audience engaged in the theatre of the moment rather than its mechanics. The thriller genre works in very much the same way. A director can orchestrate all the mind games they want, but the puzzle only works if the viewers have bought into the premise long enough for it to land.
Glen (Vincent Kartheiser) finds himself stranded late at night after running over some pesky nails with his car. A local, Art (Bob Stephenson), takes him in for some hospitality and a strange amount of alcohol before suggesting that Glen sleep with his wife Cyndi (Chelsea Lopez). The situation gets much weirder when Art pops up at Glen’s house a few weeks later, claiming that Cyndi is pregnant with his child.
The narrative gets quite confusing when Katie (Rainey Qualley) seemingly subs in as the new protagonist, a supposedly pregnant woman caught up in an affair with Alex (Chris Gartin), a senator in the middle of a re-election campaign. Glen, Cyndi, and Katie are shown to be part of a medical study run by Shannon (Breeda Wool) and Dr. Connors (Tunde Adebimpe), both carrying the aura of professional gaslighters. The warped sense of reality is equally baffling for the audience and the characters ostensibly set up to serve as the leads.
Director Robert Schroeder and writer Conor Stechschulte, who also authored the graphic novel Generous Bosom that serves as the source material, never really find themselves on the same page. Schroeder impresses with his sleek feature, but Ultrasound suffers from a wooden script and poorly developed characters. The actors, particularly Kartheiser and Wool, do their best to breathe life into one-dimensional people, but they’re never really given much to work with.
The first act is quite boring, a missed opportunity to bond the characters to the audience. Things pick up around the halfway mark, with Schroeder able to show off his talent in a genre that’s ripe for his skillset. The cinematography can only carry things so far though, like being at a boring dinner party in a house with beautiful curtains. Distractions can only fuel you for so long before you’re forced to confront the empty hole where there should be an engaging story.
A leaner cut might produce better results. Ultrasound doesn’t have a strong enough foundation to carry its 103-minute runtime. Psychology aficionados might find plenty to enjoy in Schroeder’s interesting themes, but the narrative can’t sustain the puzzle long enough for a general audience to care.