FilmIFFBostonReview

IFFBoston: "Obvious Child" is the Perfect Star Vehicle for Jenny Slate

Wesley Emblidge ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Editor

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child. Photo Credit: A24.
Jenny Slate in Obvious Child. Photo Credit: A24 Films.

Most of the big comedy stars we know and love has a background in stand-up; everyone from Steve Martin to Steve Carell got their start with a microphone in their hand before transitioning to either television or film. Many, such as the likes of Will Ferrell and Eddie Murphy, got their big break as cast members on Saturday Night Live.

Former SNL cast member Jenny Slate has guest-starred on an impressive amount of comedy shows on television, but in her new film Obvious Child she takes the lead for the first time. Obvious Child features a “womanchild” influence from HBO hit Girls and the stand-up comedy elements of Louie, all while managing to be a subversive romantic comedy. This mix works perfectly for Slate, and she managed to steal the show with her quirky, layered performance.

Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy in Obvious Child. Photo Credit: A24.
Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy in Obvious Child. Photo Credit: A24 Films.

The film opens much like an episode of Seinfeld or Louie, with Slate’s Donna performing stand-up comedy. This particular bit sets the movie in motion, as she gets a bit too personal onstage about her relationship and pushes her cheating boyfriend into finally ending it. That leads her into a drunken evening of all the sorts of ugly drunken behavior we expect, including going home and sleeping with a charming stranger (Jake Lacy). When Donna realizes she’s pregnant though, she has to struggle not with what decision to make, but how to break the news to people that she’s going to have an abortion.

This is where the film really diverges and sets itself apart from the rest of this ilk. Donna understands that she can barely take care of herself (the bookstore she works at is closing down), let alone another person, but doesn’t know what to say to the people in her life. She has trouble confronting her mother, and more importantly, the “very Christian” guy whose child it is. And like in any romantic comedy, their relationship is anything but simple. It’s reductive, but this is essentially an “abortion comedy,” and that’ll turn off some and enliven others.

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child. Photo Credit: A24.
Jenny Slate in Obvious Child. Photo Credit: A24 Films.

Setting that aside however, the film works as a great showcase for Slate and her unabashedly crude sense of humor. The actress comes from an improv background, and it is apparent when watching the movie. The improvised style works better for some sequences than others (a portion with David Cross feels wildly out of place) but overall the film succeeds with its primary objective. Rather than being offended by the subject matter, audiences should be entertained by the talented and genuinely charming Jenny Slate.

Overall Rating: B

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