By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 20, 2014 at 8:04PM
Stand-up comic Jenny Slate didn't go from zero to breakout overnight. Typically, like many performers, she's had wins and losses--like her gig on Saturday Night Live. It wasn't a good fit, she admits now in our video interview below. Clearly, Sundance hit "Obvious Child" suited her talents perfectly, as writer-director Gillian Robespierre carefully crafted this dramedy vehicle for her.
"Obvious Child" started out as a 2009 20-minute short starring Slate. After the short nabbed positive attention online and from film festivals, Robespierre went ahead with a full-fledged feature. It took more than four years to get made. She funded the film independently with private equity investors and grants--Rooftop Films, the San Francisco FIlm Society, the Tribeca Film Institute-- and finished it with Kickstarter funds. A24 acquired the film out of Sundance; it's holding well in current release.
"When I read the script I thought I was very lucky," Slate said after a festival screening at the Ashland Film Festival. "I think sometimes in comedy the characters are often sacrificed for the joke, and it's more important for it to be funny than for there to be love. Comedy can be a little brutal but not in a satisfying way. I do like it to be funny, but I also have been waiting to play a character that is a real person who could be loved, and confusing and maybe a little bit irritating, so I was excited when I read the script. I thought it was the best piece of writing I had ever seen. I thought it was a gift to me."
The film is unusual in that we see a very real young woman grappling with problems that many women have faced--but that are so taboo that they do not get dealt with on film. After a night of glorious drunken sex, our standup comedienne gets pregnant. She talks to her mother and best friend, has to figure out how to inform her erstwhile lover, and to decide whether or not to have an abortion. She confesses her dilemma in her standup act with the same candor she talks about every other aspect of her sex life. It's both moving and hilarious. Robespierre and Slate nail the tone--it's real, funny, hopeful and romantic, too.
And Slate is well on her way, from recurring roles on various TV series-- "House of Lies" and "Parks and Recreation"-- to a Joe Swanberg movie, "Digging for Fire." Debuting on July 21st on FX is new black comedy series "Married," starring Judy Greer, Nat Faxon and Paul Reiser, who plays Slate's much older husband. "She can't get her shit together," says Slate. "Their relationship is weird and interesting."
Watch the interview and trailer below.