It’s hard not to think of Obvious Child as an attempt by lead actor Jenny Slate to get into the minds of viewing audiences everywhere. While the film isn’t hers — it was directed and co-written by Gillian Robespierre, based on her own short film — it certainly feels like it is. You’re not going end it thinking “what a promising director we have on our hands”; you’re going to think “that Jenny Slate sure is funny, isn’t she?”
Okay, you might also think “boy, isn’t talking about abortion fun?” That is, of course, assuming you’re not completely put off a film that in any way, shape, or form deals with such a “controversial” topic as abortion. Sorry, I forget sometimes that there are certain countries out there for whom abortion is a bigger issue than it is here — countries like America, for instance, where this film was created. Okay, I can sort of see why Obvious Child matters to some people. If you’re completely fine with abortion — and joking about it — then Obvious Child will make you laugh, but not much else. If it’s an issue, then the film will make you uncomfortable or angry. Points either way, I think.
As mentioned, Obvious Child stars Jenny Slate as Donna, a stand-up comedienne who also works at a used bookstore. She’s broken up with early in the film, bombs an act, and then learns that the store’s landlord is kicking them all out; she loses her job in six weeks. Life sucks. Then she meets Max (Jake Lacy), an unbelievably nice guy. They have sex, she winds up pregnant, and then she tries to avoid him for the rest of the film, all while deciding that she will have an abortion — on Valentine’s Day, of all days. I felt the film missed making this a planned irony.
For most of the film, Donna talks to people, either at her stand-up routines, the bar, or wherever her best friend, Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann) happens to be. And that’s … basically it. We’re not going to talk her out of the abortion, she and Max aren’t going to instantly fall in love and become wonderful parents; this isn’t your average rom-com. In fact, it takes at least a couple of shots at rom-coms, presumably to anger other parts of its audience.
Obvious Child seems to think it’s edgy and hip and cool, and it is, I guess. That doesn’t really do much for it, positive or negative, but it’s an attitude you’ll likely notice. That’s off-putting for some people. You know, I’m starting to notice a trend: Obvious Child is a film that a lot of people aren’t going to like. Its subject matter and attitude seem designed to drum up controversy and anger people.
Assuming you’re not easily offended, or these types of things aren’t a problem anyway, then you’re in for an enjoyable film. It’s quite funny, has its points to make, is confidently directed, and does its job in making Jenny Slate into a top-notch comedic actor. I hear that they’re making a female-led Ghostbusters soon; can we use her instead of someone like Melissa McCarthy? I mean, at least Slate seems to be good at ad-libbing and does “gross” comedy in a much funnier manner.
While Slate is on full display in Obvious Child, she doesn’t overshadow her supporting cast. Jake Lacy works well as the romantic interest, in large part because he’s got the charm to work as the “perfect guy.” Gaby Hoffmann has a couple of scenes in which she is even funnier and more intense than Slate, David Cross and Gave Liedman play other friends for our lead, while Richard Kind and Polly Draper play the protagonist’s parents. Everyone is naturalistic and funny, and you’re going to enjoy watching them.
Obvious Child is a funny movie that tackles controversial subjects and very well might make many members of its audience feel awkward, offended, or mad, depending on how you were brought up, what your current thoughts on things are, or even perhaps the culture in which you live. And that’s okay. It’s not a film for everyone, and even if it’s not for you, it’ll make you think, which is always good. It has a great lead, a lot of humor scattered throughout, and doesn’t even come close to overstaying its welcome. Obvious Child is worth seeing.