“While its central topic may be bold and daring, Obvious Child deserves its credit for perhaps providing us with one of the most realistic portrayals of relationships — romantic, parental and platonic — we’ve seen on screen this year.”
by Rob Rector
Obvious Child earns points for the mere fact that it exists. The phrase “abortion comedy” (which has sadly been its reductive tag) is one that I truly did not think would be hitting the mainstream in any way.
Unexpected pregnancy in comedies such as Knocked Up and Juno merely toyed with the idea of abortion before abandoning it early on. Child places the (completely legal, I might add) procedure front and center and does not look over its shoulder to see who it offends.
It’s not that Obvious Child sets out to torch the town and be in-your-face with its topic, it is in fact rather straightforward with its subject matter and is headed by a sweet, savvy performance from its lead Jenny Slate.
Slate is Donna Stern, a middle-level comedienne whose observational humor is alienating her current boyfriend to the point where he seeks companionship elsewhere. Her day gig in a bookstore is in no better shape, as she learns that it is closing down and she must look for other employment. This all leads leads her to a drunken evening of flirtation with a clean-cut yuppie Max (played by Jake Lacey). In turn, this leads to a foggy night of fornication and morning-after regret.
A couple weeks later, she learns that they perhaps were not as precautious as her memories had her believe, and she learns she is pregnant. Realizing that she is no financial or emotional state to be a mom, she decides to have an abortion — which is still a Constitutional right, it must be noted. The rest of the film deals with Donna’s journey through the aftermath of the decision. And much to writer-director Gillian Robespierre’s credit, is seen neither as cathartic, preachy or wildly wacky. It just is.
And that is the perhaps the most charming aspect to Child, is that through it all, everyone in its universe remains surprisingly true to character, from Donna’s best friend Nellie (played by Gaby Hoffman) to her loving father (played by Richard Kind) to her frosty mom (played by Polly Draper). They all exist in very real New York City that is uncommon in the romantic comedy realm (a genre in which Child more deservedly should be identified).
But the true reason to see Obvious Child is for the performance of Slate. As a player on SNL and a hilarious recurring role on Parks & Recreation, there was little doubt that she would shine in the comedic aspects of the script. But the depth and humanity she provides Donna is truly award-worthy. And I am not one to throw around hyperbole like a “Buzzfeed” article.
Slate is warm, smart, fragile, funny and despite her on-stage confidence, is a vulnerable wreck when she steps off the stage. Donna is someone that many of us could see (and would want) in our own close circle of friends.
While its central topic may be bold and daring, Obvious Child deserves its credit for perhaps providing us with one of the most realistic portrayals of relationships — romantic, parental and platonic — we’ve seen on screen this year.