Just a measure of warning to anyone who is thinking of seeing Obvious child, the new romantic comedy about a stand up comic, who finds a new love after a tough break up…it deals with abortions. Knowing this to be an extremely hot topic in Hamilton (with an anti-abortion group sending pictures of dead fetus’s to family mailbox’s, among other things), I felt it best that I warn any potential viewer, who may go see this film without much knowledge of what it is about, the same way I saw it.
Now I am not going to go into a pro life or pro choice debate here, nor will I tell you what my feelings on the subject are either, because honestly as the late Roger Ebert always said, it is not what a movie is about, but how it is about that subject. Basically meaning just about any subject can be turned into a good movie, if it is handled correctly. Obvious Child deals with it in a way that feels honest and real to the characters it is portraying.
The film stars Jenny Slate as late 20’s stand up comic named Donna, who finds success within her local comedy bar, by doing a routine that talks about her everyday experiences in a very raw and open way. Nothing is off limits and sometimes the sets dive in to some pretty vulgar territory. We first meet her as she is blowing through a set about her sex life with her current boyfriend, as the boyfriend listens in horror. After the show he confronts her about it and reveals that he has been sleeping with one of her best friends, thus dumping her.
We then see Donna having a rough time dealing with the break up, drinking a full bottle of wine and drunk calling her ex over and over again. This scene is handled with an amazing about of honestly that you rarely see in rom com’s now a days. I can remember personally going through a very rough break up a few years back and going through the same motions as Donna here, right down to visiting a spot we always used to go as a couple, hoping she would just happen to be there. The whole process of Donna going through this break up, feels organic and true to the character.
Donna also gets some unfortunate news about her place of work, a old school book shop that every large city used to have but are clearly a dying breed today, is closing down, thus leaving Donna heart broken and out of a job.
Luckily for Donna she has a strong support system that includes her two best friends Nellie (Gaby Hoffman) and gay stand up comic Joey (Gabe Liedman) as well as her divorced but very supportive parents played by Richard Kind and Polly Draper, all who give her the right advice she needs from each one of them.
Soon Donna meets Max, after she performs a disastrous set post break up, and she right away finds him good looking and interesting enough to go home with him. They end up having drunken sex, and Donna tip toes out the door before Max wakes up, figuring she will never see him again.
As luck would have it she finds out in a few weeks time she is pregnant with Max’s baby, and she wants an abortion. She doesn’t have to think long about this decision as it is made very clear that she is simply not ready for a kid at this time in her life, neither financially or mentally.
From this point forward I was expecting a movie that would be filled with cliches about abortion, and possibly the movie would turn political. To my surprise it avoided all those cliches and never once went political. It doesn’t pick a side of the abortion debate because the movie is simply not about abortions. It is a romantic comedy that deals with an element of abortion, and it wisely doesn’t make it the center of the story.
In a day and age were we are overstuffed with, cheesy, dishonest, romantic comedies, Obvious Child is a breath of fresh air. It is funny when it needs to be funny, and it is sweet when it needs to be sweet. What truly sets it apart from the pack though is it’s honesty. Every scene just had this feeling of truth about it and I could believe that these characters in those given situations would indeed act that way. Take the great scene were Max ends up at Donna’s mothers place, when Donna is there. They have a conversation that is funny and awkward, as the camera goes between reaction shots of their faces and a long shot down the hall way. The great camera work makes it feel like we are invading a very private moment.
Jenny Slate does a great job playing Donna and finds the perfect balance between a potty mouthed comic and a vulnerable young lady, who isn’t really sure were here life is taking her. She hits all the right notes and makes Donna a character we truly care about.
Obvious Child is a small movie that apparently is making a big splash because of its subject matter. Yet as I said it is just dealing with characters who are acting in the way, I would expect them to act. It isn’t a movie that is not trying to debate either side of the abortion fight, even if the character makes a very clear choice in the end. These things happen in everyday live and they are dealt with, very much in the way the movie shows. Its just a sweet and funny film and at the end of the day any movie that can actually make me laugh at a fart joke (normally I CRINGE at them) is doing something right!