Obvious Child

 

Obvious Child begins with 20-something comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) talking on stage about stains on her underwear. Her standup routine includes highly personal observations, a la Louis CK, but Donna is not nearly as funny.

Offstage, she generates laughs. When her boyfriend dumps her, she goes to her apartment and humorously consumes a whole bottle of wine. Later, she stands across from the boyfriend’s place for some “light stalking” to see him walk out with his new love.

Along with the breakup, she learns that her day job at an independent bookstore will soon end. Life sucks. She drowns her sorrows by drinking to excess and hooking up for a one-night stand with a stranger, Max (Jake Lacy). When she wakes up she spots her undies with the aforementioned stains.

When Donna realizes she’s pregnant, Obvious Child gets into gear. She decides to get an abortion, scheduled for Valentine’s Day. But will she go through with the plan? What will her mother (Peggy Draper) say? Should she tell Max about the pregnancy and abortion plan and should he have a say in the matter?

It’s wise that Obvious Child does not get into the political and moral issues raised by abortion. It is a polarizing topic but abortion has been legal in the U.S. for several decades. Her decision forces Donna to grow up a bit and take responsibility, rather than continue to drift through her twenties.

Obvious Child might’ve worked better if Donna Stern were a funnier standup comedian. Some of her routines are personally cathartic. They advance the story, but lack consistently funny punch lines.

It may be a risky move to cast SNL alum Jenny Slate in the lead role, but she has real talent and shows potential for a good film future. Slate is funny, cute and likeable.

This small film (85 minutes) is not for everyone. Its dialogue and central story may be off-putting to many. But director and co-writer Gillian Robespierre is to be saluted for making a movie that’s not your cookie-cutter rom-com—not hardly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jersey Boys

 

Jersey Boys will delight most baby boomers. The music is terrific! John Lloyd Young does not look or sound exactly like Frankie Valli, but he can hit the high falsetto notes and deliver the goods.

Jersey Boys is not a definitive biopic. It’s the movie version of a stage musical. The script is by the same guys who wrote the book for the stage version.

Jersey Boys begins slowly with brief samples of Frankie’s singing and brushes with the law. It takes a a while before the Four Seasons sing their first hit “Sherry.” From that point on, Four Seasons hit songs come along at frequent intervals and all the performances are strong.

The other Four Seasons are Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen). The addition of Gaudio, the songwriter, is a key episode of the group’s formative years.

Tommy considers himself the group leader. Unfortunately, he mismanages the group’s finances and gets them into trouble with the mob. Shady father figure “Gyp” DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) provides guidance to the group through the crisis.

Another crisis involves Frankie’s estranged daughter Francine (Freya Tingley) who dies of a drug overdose, which supposedly leads him to record “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” as a solo project. (In real life, the song was a hit in the summer of 1967 and Francine didn’t die until 1980. Extreme dramatic license, I’d say.) Young’s performance of the song, starting in a studio and switching to supper club is a highlight.

In Jersey Boys, each group member breaks the 4th wall and speaks directly to the audience at various points in the movie. This device may have worked better on stage. In director Clint Eastwood’s movie version, while it may move the narrative along, it diminishes the reality of what’s onscreen.

Speaking of Eastwood, the movie contains one of my favorite director cameos of all time. (That’s all I’ll say. A tease, yes, but no spoiler.)

The closing number of Jersey Boys, a street dance performance of “Oh, What A Night” is the perfect finish for a movie that is to be enjoyed for its music. And, as mentioned, the music is terrific!

Edge of Tomorrow

You don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy the new Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow. And while the story features a man living the same day over and over, this film is very different from Groundhog Day.

Edge of Tomorrow, which opens on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, centers on a military invasion on a beach in France. The enemy this time (in the not too distant future) is a group of alien creatures who have invaded earth. They’re called “Mimics.” (They look like giant metallic spiders.)

William Cage (Tom Cruise) is an Army major who finds himself thrown into a combat unit stationed in London at Heathrow. The next day he hits the beach to attack the aliens. He’s fitted with cool automatic weapons strapped onto each arm. He is killed. And, so, we hit the reset button.

He goes back to the day before and his arrival at Heathrow. He keeps living the battle over and over again, gaining greater success with each replay, but ultimately dying each time.

With help from Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a buff special forces soldier who has enjoyed some success against the Mimics, Cage gains insight and physical skill. She introduces him to Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor), a mad scientist type, who concludes that to stop the alien menace the “Omega” must be defeated.

Turns out that the Omega is at the Louvre in Paris. And underwater to boot! The journey to Paris is a long and arduous one for Cage and Rita, but, after numerous delays and side trips, they get there for the climactic battle.

Edge of Tomorrow is a fun, futuristic sci-fi action adventure. This is my favorite non-Mission Impossible Cruise movie since 2002’s Minority Report. Like many films of this genre, there are some WTF moments, but the Live, Die, Repeat structure works better on film than it sounds on paper. Gamers who’ve had characters die, only to instantly regenerate, will appreciate the way this film works.

Surprisingly, while there’s smoldering sexual tension between Cage and Rita, they never get beyond a single passionate kiss. One might’ve imagined their waking up together at film’s end, but the film’s end goes another way.

Tom Cruise is a genuine movie star and he carries Edge of Tomorrow with his talent and his teeth. Well done, Tom.