How many big-screen movies have you seen that feature a joke about Birthright? Well, recent hit “Obvious Child” is not only an honest and funny rom-com but also fabulously references the infamous free 10-day trip to Israel. As comedic star Jenny Slate says, “That’s what you call a 5 percenter—only 5 percent of the audience will get [the joke], but you just have to throw it in there!” Having led two Birthright trips, I’m clearly in the 5 percent, and I was in good company at the recent Boston Jewish Film Festival screening that featured guest stars Jenny Slate—from Milton!—and director Gillian Robespierre.
“Obvious Child” is awkward in the best possible way, and true to Jenny, it’s honest and real, showing what many will recognize as a real Jewish family dynamic. When Jenny’s character, Donna Stern, is down on her luck, leave it to her brilliant, business-professor mother to pry, in an effort to help, of course, as many good Jewish mothers do. The concern goes beyond the stereotypical nagging and shows a real and deep-rooted concern for the success and well-being of the next generation. And when Donna tells her mother that she’s pregnant, her mother, in a quintessential Jewish mother way, says, “Thank God, I thought you were moving to L.A.” Having lived in Los Angeles myself, I can vouch for the fact that the average East Coast parents are not thrilled by that move!
When asked about her own Jewish background, Jenny nonchalantly said, “I work from what I know and who I am. I love fart jokes, but I was never allowed to make them at my Grandma’s Shabbat table.” Clearly this young comedian is comfortable with who she is and her Jewish identity. Whether she intends for her comedy to have a Jewish slant or not, there’s no question that her upbringing contributes to the persona you see on film.
As for “Obvious Child,” I loved it. But I warn those who have a harder time with “awkward” films that verge on being overly honest that this one takes the cake. Be forewarned that you may be uneasy from joke one.
Fellow JewishBoston.com blogger Molly Parr had the chance to ask Jenny four questions after the Boston Jewish Film Festival screening, and here’s what she had to say. Blogger Mimi Arbeit also interviewed her own friends to find out what they thought of the film’s interfaith relationship and abortion messages.
Love Jenny and want to catch more of her? Here are some great bets:
- The Jenny classic: “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” I asked about the feature-length follow-up rumors and Jenny said, “It’s on hold till they can do it independently for creative freedom reasons.”
- Her newest show, “Married,” premiered this month. Catch it on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
- Although not long-lived, I loved HBO’s “Bored to Death.” Jenny played Jason Schwartzman’s lover, Stella, in a few episodes. It’s so worth watching.
- Jenny is super funny on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”!
And a fun fact about Jenny…and me? She was born exactly two months after me, right up the street in Milton!
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