Obvious Child – 4 stars

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A romantic comedy set around an abortion requires a deft hand, and there are times when first time writer-director Gillian Robespierre navigates her lead, sweet but spoiled comedian and former SNL alum Jenny Slate, into some questionable waters. Slate is a comic, a regular at a Williamsburg club, who has a one night stand with seemingly buttoned up Jake Lacy. Her “thing” as both a stand up and as a potential mate is to be self revelatory and outrageous, and so we get a full helping of bon mots about vaginal yeast, farts and the like. That can be a little trying, as is Slate’s callous treatment of Lacy.

But it works. Slate is very good, exhibiting the in-between status of a grown woman trying to live her own life and the little girl still vulnerable and attached (financially and emotionally) to her divorced parents. Slate is very much modeled after Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath from Girls, with, thankfully, precious little of Horvath’s navel-gazing excess. But when Slate gives voice to her fear and confusion, she is natural and sympathetic.  Conversely, when Horvath is flat on her back on on the canvas, you most always feel pretty happy about it.  Lacy is also quite touching as the gentle and confused hook-up who warms Slate’s butter pats and brings flowers to Planned Parenthood.  He knows that among the smart set, the joke may be on him, but he’s game and his backhand is effective.

While I’m not sure if Robespierre meant for Slate to be only kind of funny, that works as well, because it feels real. She seems like a young comic, still working on material up until the moment she takes the stage, and that contributes to the verisimilitude of her circumstances.

This could have been arch and maybe even preachy. Gaby Hoffman, as Slate’s roommate, comes close to giving a stemwinder against the Supreme Court and society’s “patriarchy” but she is blunted by Slate’s giggles and a mild pushback from a gay friend who retorts, politics aside, that he would want to know if he got someone pregnant.

No matter the edgy subject matter, the end is syrupy sweet and hopeful, paying homage to the rom-com rules.

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