By Jan Wahl

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — KCBS Entertainment Editor Jan Wahl reviews “Obvious Child,” a romantic comedy about a stand-up comedian who is struggling with the prospect of having an abortion. Also reviewed is “Gore Vidal: United States of Amnesia,” a documentary that chronicles the life story of the famed late writer and intellectual.



It’s a woman-driven story with the controversial subject of abortion at its center. But the movie is not about that as much as it is a profile of stand-up comic, played with vulnerability and caustic honesty by Jenny Slate. Her comedy act is often crass and gross, but we begin to connect with this aching, dysfunctional young woman. Director Gillian Robespierre zeros in on the narcissism of her main character, creating a sense of engaging truth as we follow along on this rocky journey. But there is so much here that is gross and scatological that it takes away from what could have been. Not just one scene with bean-eating cowboys around a campfire or one moment with hair gel of questionable origin, this vulgarity stays throughout the movie—something I see often now. From Mel Brooks to the Farrelly Brothers, “Chef”, “Fading Gigolo” and hundreds of film comedies have kept us laughing without the gutter of total gross out. I hope wit comes back into style.


Speaking of wit, his famous quotes include: “It’s not enough to succeed, others must fail.” Also: “a good deed never goes unpunished.” That’s not Oscar Wilde; it’s Gore Vidal. In this new documentary by Nicholas D. Wrathall, we get an up close and personal look at this American man of letters, television, movies and plays. From “The Best Man” (1964) to “Ben-Hur” (1959), over 25 historical novels, cultural debates to so much more, Vidal was a highly educated and articulate iconoclast. There are some great moments here from his infamous TV debate with conservative author William F. Buckley. For more vintage Vidal, check out “The Celluloid Closet” (1995) in which he recollects how he snuck in a homoerotic tone to Ben Hur without Charlton Heston finding out. Vidal was witty, wise and unique; this documentary does him proud.

Movies To See Right Now: “Chef”, “Belle”, “Fading Gigolo”, “The Fault In ourr Stars”, “Words and Pictures”

Movies On DVD: “Jack Ryan Shadow Recruits”, “Lone Survivor”, “Monuments Men”

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