“Obvious Child”: Girl Meets Boy, with Hilarious Modern Consequences

Wouldn't it be funny, and refreshingly true, to see a movie about a young woman with a flair for self-evisceration and bodily-function jokes who happens also to need an abortion? Such is the delicate premise of writer-director Gillian Robespierre's feature debut, a conscious and compassionate effort to level the playing field of unplanned-pregnancy comedies. Jenny Slate plays a Brooklynite with zero security on the job or relationship fronts but a finely honed coping mechanism in the form of stand-up comedy. Pregnant from a drunken hookup, she has only one option, and the movie very impressively manages to make light of it without taking it lightly. It sure helps that she has such supportive pals (Gaby Hoffman, Gabe Liedman) and parents (Richard Kind, Polly Draper), and that the guy, played by Jake Lacy, is blandly patient, available, unquestioning. Though prone to slightness from having been inflated from a short to feature length, and pitched from its protagonist's necessarily self-involved perspective, Obvious Child harnesses the special alchemy by which great comedians transmute fears and wounds and general fuckedupitude into cathartic humor. Politically opposed viewers may be horrified by the movie's outward casualness, or confuse its gallows humor for glibness, but in fact it's hugely empathetic. Slate erases the boundary between a good comedic performance and a good dramatic one: Her wit is most palpable when expressed verbally, but the most essential stuff, the growing wisdom, is conveyed without words.

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