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Sundance 2014 review: Obvious Child

by on January 26, 2014


Finding a filmmaker and cast capable of juggling aspects of romantic-comedy, straight-up slapstick, and “big-issue” drama is no easy task, making the balance struck in Obvious Child all the more impressive.

In this case, the big issue–abortion–is one certain to make some audience members squirm, but director/co-writer Gillian Robespierre and star Jenny Slate handle the subject so deftly, and so humorously, that Obvious Child‘s take on abortion is refreshingly real.

Slate plays Donna Stern, a Brooklyn standup comic and bookstore employee going through a rough patch after a breakup with a boyfriend who cheated on her and felt she revealed too much of their personal lives in her incisive stage rants. She’s also just found out the bookstore she works at is closing, and her relationship with her mother (Polly Draper) is strained by Donna’s apparently lack of a life plan.

After one drunken, disastrous standup set, Donna has a one-night stand with an all-American business-type, Max (Jake Lacy), leading to a pregnancy that Donna clearly isn’t prepared for. While Max’s pursuit of Donna post-hookup lends a sweet romance to Obvious Child, the meat of the film is Donna’s decision to have an abortion, the relationship with her supportive friends (played, hilariously, by Gaby Hoffman and Gabe Liebman), and the renewed connection with her mother.

Slate offers a remarkable performance as Donna, creating a character that the audience is rooting for immediately, and continues to through the difficulties of emotionally handling her decision, and her blossoming relationship with Max. Written by three women, Obvious Child offers the rare feature-length female perspective from its first frame, and it’s better for it. And the fact it was picked up at Sundance for release by A24 is a good sign that a lot more people will get to see Slate in this star-making turn.

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