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'Obvious Child': A Very Funny Indie Rom-Com Tackling Abortion

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Sundance darling Obvious Child sets its tenor right off the bat, with a black screen and the only voice you hear being that of Jenny Slate running through a checklist of crude and off-color jokes about her vagina, Jewish identity and boyfriend before the title fades into the frame.

Slate (of Saturday Night Live, Parks And Recreation and Kroll Show fame) is Donna Stern, a standup comedienne in Brooklyn who obviously has no problem baring it all onstage before a receptive audience. Brilliantly, in a scene immediately following our introduction to her standup routine, she is dumped by the same boyfriend she had previously made cracks about in the club's unisex bathroom. Donna's whole world comes tumbling down in the presence of her audience as they go about their most private business. This indie romantic comedy bares our most private moments in the presence of others; such is the reality of the 21st century.

Donna, quick on the rebound, hooks up with the WASPy Max (Jake Lacy) one drunken night after a disastrous standup routine and winds up unexpectedly pregnant. This is when Obvious Child turns into the 'abortion rom-com' that it has been anointed by audiences eager to laud any movie willing to tackle an intentionally terminated pregnancy as a counter to the critical darlings of Juno and Knocked Up.

Obvious Child is certainly notable for how nonchalantly it handles Donna's decision to go through with the procedure, but it makes such a non-issue of the matter itself that it almost feels like a stand-in for any number of other crises that populate mainstream Hollywood romantic comedies. Issues of moral dilemmas and accessibility are conveniently avoided in its Brooklyn setting and liberal-minded cast of characters. In fact, more is made of Donna's post-college malaise of economic hardship and aimlessness. Obvious Child may or may not be deserving of the plaudits for handling an abortion in a manner that pleases audiences in the blue state cities it opens in its first weekend, but it still is a generally enjoyable and very funny film beyond its politics.

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Obvious Child opens today at the ArcLight Hollywood and Landmark Theatre.