12 June 2014 | BrentHankins
A genuine and authentic look at womanhood, featuring a truly star-making lead performance.
Over the years, the film industry has churned out plenty of comedies about the perils of dealing with unexpected pregnancy, but never has the subject been approached from such a refreshingly different point of view than in Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child.
Donna (Jenny Slate) is an aspiring stand-up comedian whose relationship with her long-term boyfriend has just come to a screeching halt, courtesy of his philandering. Angry and despondent, Donna unleashes her frustration onstage, crashing and burning in front of the audience before finding solace in genuine nice guy Max (Jake Lacy), with whom she shares a few drinks - and a bed.
When Donna discovers a few weeks later that she's pregnant, her life is thrown into upheaval. A child certainly isn't on her list of desired acquisitions, and after evaluating her options with best friend Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann), she elects to have an abortion. There's just one problem: Max, the one-night stand who also happens to be the sweetest, most courteous person Donna has ever met, and is obviously interested in more than just a casual fling.
Obvious Child differs from other pregnancy rom-coms by approaching a uniquely feminine issue from a decidedly feminine point of view. This is Donna's story, and while the film is most definitely a comedy, it treats the subject matter with respect and dignity. It's also a standout performance from Slate, who runs the full gamut of the emotional spectrum, gleefully reveling in Donna's raunchy stand-up act one moment, and losing herself in a tearjerking scene between Donna and her overbearing (but not unloving) mother in the next.
Obvious Child will likely bear the unfortunate distinction of being known as "the abortion movie," but to oversimplify the film and marginalize it in such a manner is a huge disservice. Yes, it deals with abortion, but more importantly, it deals with womanhood in a way that few films have ever dared. It's an authentic, emotional, and yes, hilarious portrait of a young woman trying to find her way, and should be considered a landmark achievement in feminist filmmaking.
-- Brent Hankins