You’re reading this because Paramount wouldn’t show me “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering there’s virtually no way Michael Bay’s latest toy catalog could be as distinctive or surprising as writer-director Gillian Robespierre’s breakout indie comedy, “Obvious Child.”
Then again, any movie that’s been simplistically branded an “abortion comedy” will never appeal to as wide a swath of the public as a bunch of computer-generated robots beating the gaskets off each other.
When we first meet “Obvious Child’s” Donna Stern (Jenny Slate), the aspiring comic is on stage, delivering her (and the movie’s) first words: “I used to hide what my vagina did to my underpants.” Her act gets only more gynecological from there.
That’s certainly one way to introduce yourself to a room full of strangers. And, at least during this particular screening, it took a while for the audience to warm to her.
But what begins as off-putting becomes, if not necessarily lovable, at least enjoyable shortly after Donna’s boyfriend (Paul Briganti) breaks up with her in the filthy, graffiti-covered comedy club bathroom by telling her he’s been sleeping with one of her friends.
What follows is a montage of Donna guzzling wine from a jelly jar and leaving him a string of bitter, human papillomavirus-related voice mails. When her roommate, Nellie (Gaby Hoffman), asks if she should stay to comfort her through the night, Donna demurs because, as she puts it, “I’m about to turn this bed into a fart pod.”
The hipster bookstore where she works has lost its lease, so Donna’s about to be unemployed. Also, the highest-profile entertainment job she’s been able to book was a commercial for an organic douche.
She won’t be gracing the cover of Perfect Life Digest anytime soon.
But what should be among her lowest moments — an alienating, sloppy-drunk, woe-is-me stand-up set that gets dark, like, Sylvia Plath in the Mariana Trench dark — is saved by an encounter with Max (“The Office’s” Jake Lacy), a white-bread, white-collar type who, luckily, showed up after her act.
They have almost nothing in common. Max is earnest and sweet-natured. He went to grammar school in a barn in Vermont. And when he tries on a pair of Crocs, he imagines that must be what shooting heroin feels like. And Donna is, well, Donna.
Still, there’s an instant connection that leads to a wild, silly night set to Paul Simon’s “The Obvious Child” and, a few weeks later, Nellie’s astonishment that’s an early contender for out-of-context line of the year: “Oh my God! You didn’t use a condom with Pee Farter?”
For a so-called abortion comedy, the only thing “Obvious Child” really throws in your face is that in no way, shape or form is Donna ready to be a mother. Its only overtly political moment comes when Donna’s chilly, professorial mother (Polly Draper) reveals that when she was in college, she resorted to having an illegal abortion on a stranger’s kitchen table.
Much like Donna, “Obvious Child” has more than a few issues. It’s sometimes awkward and occasionally messy. And when Donna learns the first day she’ll be eligible to have an abortion is Valentine’s Day, it’s hard to know whether you’re supposed to laugh or cry.
But that’s part of what makes Robespierre’s such an interesting, audacious voice. And the writer may have found her muse in Slate.
A cast member for one ill-fated season on “Saturday Night Live” that kicked off with her dropping a well-publicized F-bomb, Slate is truly something to behold. As part of her act, Donna says she looks like the love child of Natalie Imbruglia and a menorah. A more accurate description might be a cross between Rachel Dratch and a Lea Michele RealDoll. Either way, she’s like a sexy, foul-mouthed girl next door — assuming your door exists in certain enclaves of Brooklyn.
She and Lacy have a terrific rapport. His reaction to Donna’s pregnancy, which he learns about during another of her free-form stand-up sets, is the proper mix of awkwardness, uncertainty and support.
But just as you start to get comfortable with them and get accustomed to the rhythms in “Obvious Child,” everything comes to an abrupt end.
Clocking in at just 83 minutes, it’s almost to the minute half as long as “Transformers.”
Unlike that movie, though, the only thing you’ll see blowing up in “Obvious Child” is Jenny Slate’s career.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4567.