November 18th, 2014

OBVIOUS CHILD (2014) ***

Saturday Night Live’s Jenny Slate stars as a foulmouthed stand-up comedienne. When her boyfriend breaks up with her, she hooks up with a random guy at a bar and winds up getting pregnant. She plans on getting an abortion and uses her predicament as fodder for her stand-up act.

Obvious Child carries on the long cinema tradition that if a character in a movie is a stand-up comedian, they usually aren’t very funny onstage. Slate’s act isn’t very good, but there’s a reason for it. For her character, stand-up is her catharsis. It’s the place she sorts out all the shit that’s going on in her life, usually for a puzzled audience. The stage is more of her personal confessional than a source of paying customers’ entertainment. Slate gives a strong and surprising performance and is quite funny in the other scenes in the film, especially when relating her problems to her best friend (Gaby Hoffmann).

Even though Obvious Child is about a comedian starring a comedian, it’s not exactly an out-and-out comedy. It’s more about how someone deals with an unexpected life event using humor as a coping mechanism. A lot of the movie is depressing and somewhat sad, and some of it is downright painful to watch (her final stage act in particular).

This is not a fun movie, but it is a well-acted, earnest, and honest one. Although I can’t really say I “enjoyed” watching it, I admired the honesty that went into it. There are no “Meet Cute” Rom-Com subplots or clichés. It pulls no punches and remains true to its characters. For that and that alone, it’s recommended.

COLOMBIANA (2011) **

As a kid, Zoe Saldana witnesses her parents gunned down by a bunch of slimy drug dealers. With the help of her uncle (Cliff Collins), she grows up to be a seasoned assassin. Saldana then uses her skills to get revenge on the men who murdered her parents.

Colombiana comes to us from writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen and director Olivier Megaton. It’s guilty of making a lot of the same mistakes these kinds of films make in the post-action era of filmmaking. It features some dodgy camerawork (a lot of zooms and handheld stuff) and it’s over-edited to the brink of chaos. As far as Besson and Co.’s assembly-line action-thrillers go, it’s strictly middle-of-the-road stuff.

The beginning is particularly done in poor taste. Putting a young girl in jeopardy is one thing. Watching her puke up a computer disk is another.

The big stumbling block about Colombiana is Zoe Saldana’s performance. She is so low-key that it becomes hard to buy her as a ruthless assassin. Sure, we’ve seen her play tough chicks in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avatar, but she underplays the role so much that she barely registers.

There are some good scenes here though. I liked the part where Saldana got herself arrested so she could sneak out and assassinate a guy and maintain an airtight alibi. Another memorable scene comes when she feeds a guy to his pet sharks. These scenes are more the exception than the rule.