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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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An unplanned pregnancy as romantic comedy? That’s ‘Obvious Child’

By day, Donna Stern works in Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books in 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 lets 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.

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