This reviewer can't say for sure, but it would seem likely that anyone who's been through childbirth would likely find Drew Barrymore's impersonation of it at the outset of "Miss You Already" irritatingly glib, amateurish, patronizing . . . and just a little encouraging. Things can only get better, right? Wrong. They get worse.

From the cutesy montage introducing Jess and Milly (Barrymore and Toni Collette) as childhood friends in London, to their first kisses, first dates, marriages and eventually their children and their very adult crises, the film is a soulless parade of movie conventions and rote acting. And then Milly gets breast cancer. And what was previously just tiresome becomes just a little bit offensive.

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It's a discouraging piece of work for several reasons. One is Barrymore, who always seems quite nice but whose attempts at serious drama can be quite painful. Collette can be a fine actress, but she's allowed to emote all over the place. And what else can she do? "Miss You" is a movie about disease. If it were primarily a movie about the women and their relationship, and cancer was an event in the life of two characters who were developed, fully realized and which an audience cared about, it would be a wholly different thing. "Miss You Already" instead is about trips to chemotherapy, the wigmaker, the surprise party where Milly acts out and humiliates her husband (Dominic Cooper); it's about Milly being angry and Milly's children being confused, and Milly and her husband not having sex. The characters are accessories to illness.

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Basically, screenwriter Morwenna Banks hasn't really delivered a story. It's more of a cancer procedural, with little chemistry between the characters. There's also no chemistry between anyone in the movie and director Catherine Hardwicke, which is discouraging. At a time when Hollywood sexism is under scrutiny, one of the industry's leading female directors (the first "Twilight") delivers a movie that validates every boy's-club rationale for why women don't get hired to direct. That, and not the story line, is enough to make one weep.