‘Unexpected’ Satirizes the Same White Cluelessness About Race It Sometimes Exhibits
Actress Cobie Smulders
Unexpected, a disappointing what-to-expect-when-you’re-expecting comedy, tackles thorny issues of class and racial inequality with undue mildness. Co-writer/director Kris Swanberg tries to avoid using stereotypes to define the relationship between expecting high school teacher Samantha (Cobie Smulders) and college-bound student Jasmine (Gail Bean). She’s most interested in representing a benign but tense bond between a white teacher and a black student, but Swanberg never offers penetrating insights about her two lead protagonists’ friendship and shared anxieties.
Swanberg’s regrettable downplaying of Samantha’s obliviousness is most glaring in the scene where Jasmine creeps Samantha out by pouring a pouch of sugary Capri Sun fruit juice into a bag of Cheetos. Samantha almost retches when she smells Jasmine’s unholy concoction, and demands that Jasmine immediately throw her junk food out of the car. Jasmine characteristically laughs at Samantha’s freak-out, but Samantha never apologizes. The scene’s implicitly haughty message is clear: White people disapprove of black people’s tastes, but that’s OK because they mean well. Unexpected isn’t about, but rather a product of, class-based condescension in America.
Unexpected, the film
Directed by Kris Swanberg
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