Film Spotlight: Obvious Child

Perhaps the only thing worse than getting dumped is getting dumped by a guy who's been cheating you on with your best friend. That's what happens to Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) at the start of Obvious Child, a hit at this year's Sundance Festival that makes its way to area theaters on Friday.

The film provides a refreshingly frank look at relationship matters and might just be the first comedy to center on the issue of abortion. The film might draw comparisons to Juno, but it takes a much more realistic look at the issues that face the twentysomethings of today.

A standup comic who holds down a day job at a rare bookstore that's about to go out of business, Donna hasn't lived up to her parents' expectations. And yet her quirky father (Richard Kind) and her overachieving mother (Polly Draper) provide a certain amount of comfort in the wake of her breakup. So do good friends Nellie (Gaby Hoffman) and Joey (Gabe Liedman). One night while on the rebound, she meets Max (Jake Lacy), a good-natured guy who really gets her sense of humor. The resulting one-night stand becomes complicated, however, when she gets pregnant. (To her credit, Donna tried to use a condom but the two just didn't properly put the damn thing on).

The film is likely to draw some criticism from the fact that Donna never even considers keeping the unborn child and rushes to a clinic to schedule an abortion. To its credit, it shows the way in which Donna is really only sarcastic on the outside. She might joke about even the most serious of topics (and everything in her life eventually finds its way into her standup routines at the neighborhood bar where she performs) but she's constantly crying and talking about her fears and anxieties to her slose friends. She comes off as a slightly kinder and gentler version of Lena Dunham's Hannah Horvath.

Writer-director Gillian Robespierre doesn't show much flare here — she's guilty of relying a little heavily on the montage — but she's got a great ear for dialogue and a terrific ability to develop character. And she gets a great performance out of Slate, whose comedy often borders on obnoxious.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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