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Obvious Child

Title aside, there’s nothing obvious about this comedy-drama in which a young Brooklyn woman, acutely aware of her own growing pains and limitations, deals with whether or not she should have an abortion. At least that’s how the movie is being marketed, in what I can’t help but feel is a campaign based on the idea that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

The star is Jenny Slate, whom you’ve probably seen if you watch any television aside from news and sports. She was on SNL for one season, where she was known for impersonating Lady Gaga and for saying “fuck” on her first show. Her character, Donna, is a variation on herself, a struggling stand-up comic living in Williamsburg Brooklyn. (That her comic persona, an attractive young Jewish girl whose scatological preoccupations seem at odds with her clean-cut appearance, is essentially the same as Sarah Silverman’s is a subject I will leave for others to worry about.)

We first meet Donna during a bad patch: her boyfriend has just dumped her and the owner of the book shop where she works has decided to close up. Getting drunk with her gay male best friend (this film is not above it’s own range of clichés), she meets Max (“The Office’s” Jake Lacy), a square Midwestern business school graduate who apparently minored in puppy dog impersonations. Inebriated sex (there’s another of those pesky clichés) leaves her pregnant, and motherhood is not anything she is capable of handling at her uncertain stage in life.

I saw Obvious Child a few months ago at the Cleveland Film Festival, where it struck me as a likeable if minor comedy about not quite coming of age in Brooklyn, or at least Brooklyn as it now exists in the popular imagination. That abortion was a part of the story didn’t seem like something revolutionary, simply a plot device (albeit an unusual one) to depict the character’s collision with adulthood. To the extent that that issue has made it something of a cause celebre (NBC was criticized for allegedly refusing to carry an ad for the film that used the word “abortion”), it may alienate more viewers than it gains, but then again it probably stood little chance of breaking outside of the indie-film bubble in the first place.

Watch the trailer for Obvious Child

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