An inventive take on the rom-com genre, this genuinely hilarious film is even more engaging because its characters and premise are unexpectedly honest. It also has a level of realistic unpredictability, as the feisty characters refuse to behave like the people we normally see in the movies. And the story is consistently laugh-out-loud funny even as the plot is essentially very serious.
It centres on struggling stand-up comic Donna (Jenny Slate), whose regular venue is an open-mic bar in Brooklyn where she's offered moral support by her sparky pals Nellie and Joey (Gaby Hoffmann and Gabe Liedman). She may not make much money, but she has a great life. Her boyfriend (Paul Briganti), on the other hand, is tired of being the butt of all of her best jokes. So he dumps her. Donna reacts by having a meltdown on-stage and then getting drunk in another bar with Max (Jake Lacy). He may be a stranger, but he seems like a nice guy, so she takes him home. A few weeks later she discovers that she's pregnant, and her emotionally supportive friends and parents (Polly Draper and Richard Kind) can't help her make the big decisions ahead of her.
This is a film about a young woman finally taking responsibility for her own life, facing up to some difficult responsibilities and moving forward. But since this is a comedy, it's of course not very smooth sailing. Slate plays the role with impeccable comical timing, somehow making the rather pathetic Donna thoroughly likeable. And the actors around her add crisp humour exactly where its needed, providing much more than mere comic relief: each one is an integral element in Donna's journey. One of the most cringe-inducing sequences features the terrific David Cross as a predatory old friend who offers Donna a riotously messy distraction.
Writer-director Gillian Robespierre gets the details exactly right, authentically depicting everything from a seedy stand-up venue to a woman's internal turmoil when faced with such a chaotic mix of emotions. And the film is set in an offbeat corner of New York City that we rarely see on screen, brought to life through the quirky characters, improv-style dialogue and situations that refuse to play out predictably. Thankfully, Robespierre never pushes the film's messages to forcefully, letting them play out through a story that avoids the usual cliches. And by never telling the audience what to think about the issues involved, she leaves the decisions to us while revealing that perhaps the options aren't as narrow as we think they are.
Run time: 84 mins
In Theaters: Friday 29th August 2014
Box Office USA: $3.1M
Distributed by: A24 Films
Production compaines: Votiv Films, Rooks Nest Entertainment, Sundial Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 112 Rotten: 15
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Producer: Elisabeth Holm
Screenwriter: Gillian Robespierre
Starring: Jenny Slate as Donna Stern, Jake Lacy as Max, Gaby Hoffmann as Nellie, Polly Draper as Nancy Stern, Richard Kind as Jacob Stern, David Cross as Sam, Gabe Liedman as Joey, Cindy Cheung as Dr. Bernard, Paul Briganti as Ryan, Stephen Singer as Gene
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