Thursday, July 3, 2014

Obvious Child

Let’s hear it for the Girls

     Writer-director Gillian Robespierre, producer Elisabeth Holm, and star Jenny Slate have collaborated on a romantic comedy-drama that’s probably the best one since The Kids Are All Right (2010).  I’ll state now that there is an early first
trimester abortion performed as part of the plot.  There’s also one in Peyton Place (1958), but I’ve never read a critic refer to it.  Unlike Knocked Up (2007), where it was considered, the main character in Obvious Child goes through with it in a way that actually displays her maturity and brings her closer to her mother.  I’m wondering if the female creative sensibility can handle this subject matter with greater equanimity than a male one, specifically Judd Apatow.

Slate and Lacy's Chance Meeting
     All of that being said, Obvious Child updates a number of romantic comedy tropes by focusing on the talent and creativity of Donna Stern, the stand up comedian female protagonist, making her unapologetically playful, intelligent, and simultaneously driven and despairing.  Slate captures all of that and suggests what she’ll be like as an artist and woman in the future in an incandescent performance.  Donna’s able to sustain serious friendships with her female roommate and her gay best friend, also a comic as well as her diametrically opposite parents.  And, though unconventionally attractive, she’s the one pursued by the cute MBA graduate.  It’s almost as if Alvy Singer reversed genders with Annie Hall.

Polly Draper and Jenny Slate
     Polly Draper and Richard Kind match up almost perfectly emotionally and physically as Jenny Slate’s parents.  It’s good to see Draper years after thirtysomething and hear that distinctive throaty rasp, but with a unique intonation and accent in this part as a distinguished professor.  Gaby Hoffmann and Gabe Liedman both display idiosyncratic warmth as the friends.  Liedman tells a very funny joke that I wasn’t expecting when he first introduces Slate.  David Cross makes both his scenes count as an older comic, who’s both more successful and more uncertain than the younger comedians.

Jake Lacy
     Any movie of this type succeeds or fails on the chemistry of the main couple and that’s where the writing, directing, and acting of Obvious Child take off.  Slate and Jake Lacy as her potential swain radiate a giddiness in their first night together and develop a humor together that is completely different in rhythm and timbre from her stand up work.  Lacy plays a nice guy, who actually wants to stick around.  He’s sincere and funny in a self deprecating way.  Obvious Child is a winner.

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