by George Wolf
Obvious Child is at times funny, crude, poignant, sad and awkward- kinda like life. And through it all, it is a film that feels honest – so much so that it’s hard to believe the lead actor didn’t also write the screenplay.
Writer/director Gillian Robespierre expands her 2009 short film and again casts Jenny Slate as Donna, a twenty-something bookstore clerk who does standup comedy by night. After her boyfriend takes her to dumpsville, Donna rebounds by hooking up with preppy Max (Jake Lacy)…only to find herself knocked up by preppy Max.
To paint this film as the “abortion rom-com” is both understandable and unfair. While the comedic approach it takes to such a polarizing issue all but guarantees a controversial label, Obvious Child is far from single-minded.
Robespierre brings a refreshingly casual frankness to a collection of life snapshots, all echoing with authenticity. There’s no pretense or judgement, and only a hint of the self-absorption that often plagues similar dramadies (yes, Girls).
And the neurotic thread running through it all is the strange compulsion to unburden the soul for perfect strangers in a comedy club.
Slate (Kroll Show/Parks and Recreation/SNL) is letter-perfect as a woman whose brutally personal comedy routines seem to be her only outlet for confronting anything personal in her life. The situation with Max becomes her wake-up call.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Robespierre transforms a 23 minute short film into a nearly 90 minute feature without tacking on superfluous filler. It all works, from Donna’s relationship with her parents (Polly Draper, Richard Kind) to the support from her loyal best friend (Gaby Hoffman).
Obvious Child delights in exploring roads that are rarely traveled in romantic comedies – but don’t expect a parody. As Jimmy Buffett has often said about his song Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and Screw), this is a love story…from a different point of view.