Obvious Child (R) ★★★½

Jake Lacy and Jenny Slate star in "Obvious Child." Photo credit: A24 Films
Jake Lacy and Jenny Slate star in “Obvious Child.” Photo credit: A24 Films

“Obvious Child” is Risky & Refreshing

When it comes to rom-coms, the conflict seems to always find its way to a perfect solution, a solution that is sure to sit well with audiences. The lead guy and girl end up getting married and having a family. Or, the group of ex-girlfriends succeed in their mission to get payback with the man who acted childish or mistreated them in the past. In what some may consider controversial rom-coms like Knocked Up (2007) and Juno (2007), the heroines must face the difficult decision to either terminate or move forward with their pregnancies. These heroines, of course, decide to proceed and have the baby, the less shocking option.

In the indie rom-com Obvious Child, aspiring comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate, Parks and Recreation 2013-2014) finds herself in a similarly awkward situation as Alison and Juno, but takes the road less traveled (when it comes to films, at least). The superstition that bad things happen in threes could easily be attributed to Donna. This twenty-something spitfire was recently dumped, lost her job at the local bookstore, and then discovered she was pregnant after an unmemorable one-night stand with a straight-laced gentleman named Max (Jake Lacy, Better with You 2010). Luckily, for Donna, this was all just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Most people fall into a deep, dark hole after life changing events such as these, and Donna did in spades. After drinking herself into oblivion, leaving countless, embarrassing voicemails on her ex-boyfriend’s phone and stalking him outside of his apartment, she eventually realized the ‘good’ that could come out of her situation. This was priceless material for her next stand-up show.

While abortion is certainly a hot button topic, it’s not off limits for Donna. In fact, she is unapologetically herself in her stand-up. She jokes about incredibly personal details involving her relationships, her sex life and any bodily function you can imagine.

Unlike preceding rom-coms, newcomer writer and director Gillian Robespierre captures the unwanted pregnancy topic in a distinctively straightforward manner. The film is risky and refreshing given the main topic of abortion and how Donna grapples with her decisions. Female audiences can certainly empathize with Donna’s character, even if they haven’t faced the difficult decision of an unplanned pregnancy. Donna struggles with the uncertain future of adulthood – her career path, finances and relationships. Her character is one that resonates with audiences. On the flip side, there will definitely be some viewers who won’t appreciate her frank approach to abortion or have the patience for her juvenile acts.

Slate’s breakout performance wouldn’t be complete without the supporting cast, even though their screen time is minimal. The ultimate Brooklyn hipster, Nellie, played by Gaby Hoffmann (Girls 2014) is Donna’s stereotypical sidekick who is always there to say what Donna needs to hear. Gaby also “kicks” alongside of their gay friend, Joey (Gabe Liedman, The Half Hour 2013), who is never afraid to share his opinion. David Cross (Kill Your Darlings, 2013) plays Gabby’s eccentric old comedian friend who inappropriately comes on to her during an awkward hang out. Richard Kind (The Michael J. Fox Show, 2014) and Polly Draper (Side Effects, 2013) are polar opposites as the divorced parents of Donna.

Although edgy and irreverent, the film is also heartwarming. Donna’s journey is about being open to the love of others, being vulnerable and her journey is worth watching.

Bottom-Line?  This risky and provocative rom-com is filled with humor, humility and quirkiness – all while tackling the facts of life…the embarrassing facts. Jenny Slate is fantastically frank. There is no doubt audiences will be seeing a lot more of her. She’s just getting started.

Cast: Jenny Slate (Donna Stern), Jake Lacy (Max), Gaby Hoffmann (Nellie), Gabe Liedman (Joey), David Cross (Sam), Richard Kind (Jacob Stern), Polly Draper (Nancy Stern)

Credits: Directed by Gillian Robespierre; Written by Gillian Robespierre and Karen Maine

Studio: A24 Films

Run Time: 83 minutes

Jessica Aymond © June 10, 2014