Movie Review: “Obvious Child” eschews the obvious. And how.

ImageBy day, Donna Stern works in Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books sin Brooklyn. By night, the cute 28 year-old has a few drinks — and a few more — and gets up on stage at her favorite dive and does stand-up.
It’s not the observational, “Didya ever notice” comedy of the Seinfeld generation, but the over-sharing personal narrative of the narcissistic, lay-it-all-out-there and hope some of it is funny of the no-privacy era. She talks about her sex life, her sex parts, her boyfriend — the works.
Think Sarah Silverman, and just as Jewish.
It’s no great shock when the boyfriend ditches her. Donna is plainly not an adult. She’s a Paul Simon song we hear later in her story — an “Obvious Child.” But the beau has been cheating — with a friend of hers. He dumps her in the club’s unisex bathroom. And like a lot of people his age, he’s an addict.
“Looking at your PHONE while you’re dumping me?”
“Obvious Child” is a quirky, funny and quite gutsy comedy that “goes there” — in the vernacular of five minutes ago. It’s the funniest unplanned pregnancy romantic comedy since “Knocked Up,” and FAR more daring.
Jenny Slate is Donna, and she plays a couple of drunk scenes for the ages in the early scenes of this indie-budgeted romp. Watch her plead, tease, insult and binge-share as she drunk-dials the guy who left her. Sympathize as she crawls into a box as she packs up inventory, because the book store is closing and she’s losing her job, too. See her drown her sorrows and turn decidedly unfunny on stage as she talks about how crushing this was to her, how betrayed this boyfriend and her friend who cheated with him made her feel.
“I would love to just murder/suicide them,” she jokes. We hope. “Murder-sui them.” Pause. “A lot of people say I look like Anne Frank.”
And see her be charmed by the preppy computer game interface designer, Max (Jake Lacy), an uber-Gentile who looks like James Marsden and sounds just like Ben Affleck. She mocks his Docksiders.
“Welcome to Brooklyn,” he cracks back, “where they judge you by your SHOES.”
Their boozy one-night stand produces a pregnancy, one Donna is in no place to handle.
“I would like an abortion, please. Sorry, that sounded like I was ordering in a drive-through!”
Donna has the obligatory gay friend (Gabe Liedman), a supportive best friend (Gaby Hoffman, who could pass for her sister), a no-nonsense business professor mom (Polly Draper), an adoring TV puppeteer dad (Richard Kind). She should be able to handle that coming Planned Parenthood appointment, right?
Sure, but then things get more complicated.
Abortion has been so cast out of the entertainment sphere that it is a jolt to hear it joked about or even discussed frankly in a movie (TV is scared to death of it). But when Donna’s mom let’s slip the funniest Alzheimer’s zinger ever, you know nothing is off limits and whatever else this obvious child with the potential child is going to do, it will be her first adult decision — maybe ever.
That makes this Gillian Robespierre film and its bright new star a comic slap in the face — a turn-off for some, but a refreshing new point of view and new way of looking at that point of view, something only the rarest comedies ever pull off.

MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual content
Cast: Jenny Slate, Gaby Hoffman, Polly Draper, Richard Kind, Jake Lacy
Credits: Directed by Gillian Robespierre, written by Karen Maine and Gillian Robespierre, based on a short film by Anna Bean. An A24 release.
Running time: 1:23

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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2 Responses to Movie Review: “Obvious Child” eschews the obvious. And how.

  1. Dee says:

    For future reference:
    Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

    • Your point, with this drop in the bucket of a list? When an actor/character plays up/mentions their ethnicity repeatedly, as a big part of who they are, it’s worth noting. And she does look like Anne Frank. Anything else?

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