So Obvious Child's Jenny Slate Walks Into a Bar

Categories: Film

jenny-slate-standup_obvious-child_A24.jpg
A24
The amazing Jenny Slate amazingly does amazing stand-up in Obvious Child.

It's not like Obvious Child needs another critical rave at this point. According to the ad in our dead-tree edition, Vanity Fair called the I'll-take-an-abortion-please rom-com "hilarious," Variety offered a first trimester "Uproarious and refreshingly honest" and The Washington Post birthed, "One of the most startlingly honest romantic comedies to appear onscreen in years."

It's already been singled out for praise on ocweekly.com, too:

The Choice That Dare Not Speak Its Name
A Rom-Com of One's Own: Obvious Child director Gillian Robespierre explains the inspiration behind her abortion-themed romantic comedy
The Sublime and Beautiful, Kickstarted Drama, is Big Newport Beach Film Fest Award Winner (Scroll down to Oblivous Child star Jenny Slate's 2014 Festival Award for "Breakout Performance.")

By the way, the award the Newport Beach Beach Film festival staff gives out is no surprise when you consider two NBFF programmers had confessed going in to this year's fest that Obvious Child was the funniest film they saw at this year's Sundance. Associate Director Max Naylor even made a point of adding if the flick does not help make Slate a huge star, nothing will.

So why dredge all that up at this point? Obvious Child has plenty of steam going into its "exclusive engagement" at Edwards University in Irvine today. I only wanted to add this: I can't think of another film that has so successfully dramatized a stand-up comic's act.

Think about it: the fictional stand-up sets by the actors in Punchline (Tom Hanks and Sally Field) blew. Richard Pryor was no Richard Pryor in Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling. I couldn't get over Billy Crystal not getting over himself in Mr. Saturday Night to appreciate his routines. Robert DeNiro was purposely cornball in The King of Comedy, but nowhere near as effective as Norm Macdonald is at telling intentionally bad jokes. Dustin Hoffman was okay in the stage portions of Lenny, although I find audio recordings of Lenny Bruce far funnier.

Obvious Child begins with Brooklynite Donna Stern's raw, self-mocking and side-splitting stage act that, I'd argue, not only slyly sets in motion the life-changing events that will follow for her (Slate's) character, it establishes a tone of total believability the audience carries for the rest of a smart, funny, totally fresh picture.

It took stand-ups Louis C.K. and Marc Maron most of their careers to mine their insides (or therapy sessions) for what resulted in their best sets of comedy ever. Stern seems to have either figured that out early in her own, or she just doesn't know any better (thus the life-changing events that follow). That she communicates this in such a wickedly funny way is a credit to director Gillian Robespierre, her co-writers and, of course, Ms. Slate, who has proven time and again she can kill with her stand-up, improv and scripted roles.

Hell, I'll go ahead and pile on: Obvious Child is the funniest film I I have seen in a long, long time. Judging by those howling along with me at NBFF, plenty agree. How's this for a pregnant pause: You can believe the critics this time.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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