Obvious Child is a film that could be thought of as the “indie” version of Knocked Up that deals with a sensitive subject surrounding unexpected/unwanted pregnancy. It’s an adorably awkward romantic comedy with a sense of humor that’s honest, innocent, a little dark and, overall, charming. The film was written and directed by Gillian Robespierre and features Jenny Slate (known from a brief stint on SNL) as Donna Stern, a 28 year old struggling stand-up comedian in NYC. Before I talk about the movie, I should offer a warning that this review contains a spoiler in the form of a singular, but important, fact about what the plot of the movie centers around.
The film leads off with a short stand-up set from Donna where she talks about her life. She addresses a lot from her unladylike ways to her relationship status. Of course, the relationship ends right after her set when her boyfriend tells her that he’s been sleeping with a friend of hers. Donna goes into a bit of a depression before hooking up with a new guy, Max, played by Jake Lacy (The Office). Their one night stand turns into an unexpected surprise when Donna finds out she’s pregnant. Donna decides to have an abortion. Later, Max, who’s unaware of the situation, comes back around and tries to start a legitimate relationship with her. Donna’s left struggling to figure out what to do with Max’s advances and whether or not she should tell him that she’s pregnant with his child or that she’s planning to get an abortion.
Going into the movie I had no idea that it was going to feature the topic of a woman having an abortion and I feel like that will paint the views of most people when they leave the theater. However, for me, what really stood out was the ability of the movie to still be genuinely comedic in this context without feeling crass or inappropriate. This movie embraces the kind of genuine awkward humor that I think of when someone uses the term “adorkable”. It’s not someone making jokes about stereotypical “dorky” things, but a person who truly is awkward or uncomfortable in their situation but still manages to be somewhat charming, innocent or adorable. Which is exactly what I thought when watching Slate on screen; that she was adorable throughout. Not only that but Slate and Lacy were great together on screen. I think they may be the 2nd best on screen couple I’ve seen this year behind Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield.
Donna is a character that is, basically a woman-child. The prospect of her having a baby is one that she’s clearly not ready for and she knows that. There is very little sense in the film that anyone thinks she should have a baby. You can take that as a pro-choice stance (and I don’t doubt that there are people that will) or you can see it as a more genuine reaction that some people just aren’t ready to have a kid. I will say that the fact that revealing that both of the other significant female figures in the movie had also had abortions did start to make it feel more like the former but the fact that the movie doesn’t really focus on abortion as an “issue” allowed me to not worry about it during the film. The one exception to that is when they actually show Donna on the table preparing to get the abortion just because I had the really uncomfortable feeling that they might actually try to show the procedure on screen (thankfully, they did not).
Instead of focusing on the “life vs choice” debate, which it easily could have, the film chooses to deal with the budding relationship between Max and Donna. In that way, it’s more like a standard romantic comedy. The view point of the relationship is still that of Max interjecting himself into Donna’s life. We see Donna’s workplace, friends and family and watch Max try to introduce himself into that. By the way, the actors playing her friends and family all provide really fun individual scenes when they are on screen. They are fairly isolated scenes (which you expect from an indie movie) but Gabe Liedman, David Cross, Richard Kind and Polly Draper are all fun in different ways when they interact with Donna.
Even though I was surprised by the content of the film I still really enjoyed it. The character of Donna is only moderately funny when she’s doing her stand-up but she provides a lot of wonderful awkward humor in her everyday life. The cinematography of the movie does reflect the smaller budget for the movie but it’s still very effective and there are some really nice individual shots that are set up through the movie. I did find that some of the musical choices they made during the film were a little bit distracting but that faded as the film went on. It’s a good film that I think fans of something like Fox’s New Girl would enjoy.
Who knows what will happen to this movie once it leaves theaters. So my immediate recommendation would be to go see it in theaters.