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'Don't Worry Baby' takes high road in father-son paternity sweepstakes

'Don't Worry Baby' takes high road in father-son paternity sweepstakes
Christopher McDonald, left, and John Magaro star as father and son in the movie "Don't Worry Baby." (FilmBuff)

The terrific young actor John Magaro, so good in David Chase's little-seen "Not Fade Away," again brings his A-game to "Don't Worry Baby," a bittersweet indie comedy that marks an impressive feature writing-directing debut for Julian Branciforte.

The film's high-concept story, one that in past decades might have inspired a big, star-driven studio vehicle, involves Robert (Magaro), an aspiring Manhattan photographer who discovers that his one-night stand four years ago with the sexy Sara-Beth (Dreama Walker) may have produced an endearing little girl named Mason (Rainn Williams).

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On the other hand, Mason could be the child of Robert's philandering, narcissistic father, Harry (Christopher McDonald, also first-rate), who hooked up with Sara-Beth that same week as Robert. Talk about "Who's your daddy?"

Despite the tale's potential for an overly broad and crass approach to its loaded setup, Branciforte's sly, incisive writing and even-handed take on his authentic characters instead errs on the side of wit, candor and a kind of hip sophistication.

The movie, which deftly tracks the tiny personality shifts that occur as Robert and Harry await the results of a paternity test, also avoids the excess sentimentality that could go with this territory, yet remains emotionally true and satisfying.

Walker, Tom Lipinski as Robert's soulful horndog roommate and Talia Balsam as Robert's mom and Harry's ex-wife are also tops.

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'Don't Worry Baby'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD

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