Stand-up but Don’t Deliver

The setup of “Obvious Child” may remind you a bit of “Seinfeld” — a Jewish New York comedian turns the mundane into standup material. In this case, however, the comic is a young Brooklyn woman named Donna Stern as played by relative newcomer Jenny Slate. Donna’s material about abortion isn’t exactly gold though it’s an improvement over her usual set of unfunny and icky bodily function jokes. [The best joke in the entire film is actually delivered by another comic: how his dad reminds him of both Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor.] She’s already lost one boyfriend due to her onstage over-sharing, her job at the anti-imperialist, non-repressive non-colonialist bookstore is about to end and her academic mom’s idea of advice comes in the form of a spreadsheet. Attention from a very nice though not-her-type straight arrow turns into a one-night stand that leads to her unplanned pregnancy.

The main business of the film—which sometimes threatens to be more cute than funny but ultimately won me over—is about Donna’s eventual thaw to the goy (a winning performance by “The Office”‘s Jake Lacy). A rom-com whose love story takes off post-abortion probably won’t make it to many pro-lifer Netflix queues but others will appreciate the delicate balance of humor and emotion in this hugely likable film. It doesn’t hurt that the film sports a great ensemble cast including Richard Kind and Polly Draper as Donna’s divorced parents, David Cross as a creepy comedy club owner, and Gaby Hoffman as her roomie. Confidently directed by Gillian Robespierre, this first feature premiered at Sundance earlier this year and is the centerpiece of the upcoming New Director’s/New Films festival at Lincoln Center. While it’s hard to see much of a future for Donna Stern, I predict big things for Slate and Robespierre. Read more