Social Isolation Review: “Obvious Child”

Year: 2014
Runtime: 84 Minutes
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Writer: Gillian Robespierre (screenplay by), Karen Maine (story)
Stars: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann

By Morgan Roberts

Is there such a thing as a perfect film?  No.  But there are many films that come close.  Gillian Robespierre’s feature film debut, “Obvious Child” (2014), is one of those films.  With a runtime of 84 minutes, Robespierre ensures that each moment counts.  The pacing is incredible, seamlessly moving from one plot point to the next.

On top of the impeccable timing comes the equally impeccable performances.  Jenny Slate is our protagonist Donna. She works at a bookstore during the day, but does her real work at night as a comedienne.  Her humor blends self-deprecation with sprinkles of self-pride.  She talks about how she looks like if Natalie Imbruglia and a menorah had a baby.  She also talks about her relationship with her boyfriend. And, she discusses about how no woman ends her day with a clean pair of underwear and then gets vivid explaining exactly what she means.  It is the heck of a way to start a film, but it lets the audience know exactly who we are rooting for.

jenny and jake
Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy in Obvious Child (2014) © 2014 – A24

After her first stand-up set onscreen, her boyfriend decides to break-up with her.  In the most relatable scene in film ever, Donna downs a bottle of wine and drunk calls her, now, ex who cheated on her with her friend.   After her romantic break-up, Donna learns the bookstore she works in is closing.  Then enters Max (Jake Lacy), a guy she meets at a bar after a tragic stand-up bomb earlier in the evening.  The two hook up and she leaves thinking it to be a simple one night stand.

“Obvious Child” is a comedy, a romantic comedy, while it also tackles a taboo subject.  Yet, while it tackles this taboo subject, it effortlessly works to normalize it.  It becomes part of Donna’s narrative for a moment of time, but it does not define her.”

Several weeks later, Donna finds out that she is pregnant and decides to terminate her pregnancy.  It is a bit of a heavy shift.  It is a deeply personal decision.  Robespierre handles it with frankness and earnestness.  Donna is not alone.  Her friends Joey (Gabe Liedman) and Nellie (Gaby Hoffman) are by her side.  What makes it weird is that after she discovers she is pregnant and comes to her decision, she keeps running into Max.  She wants to tell him what is happening but does not know exactly how.  The choice to tell Max is not to get talked out of it, but to give him the option to be there for her.

obvious
Jenny Slate in Obvious Child (2014) © 2014 – A24

“Obvious Child” is a comedy, a romantic comedy, while it also tackles a taboo subject.  Yet, while it tackles this taboo subject, it effortlessly works to normalize it.  It becomes part of Donna’s narrative for a moment of time, but it does not define her.  It also happens to bond her with other cisgender women in her life.  Slate is a genius comedienne – just watch her stand-up special “Stage Fright” (2019) on Netflix.  But one thing she does so well is tap into the vulnerabilities of Donna.  She lets her be so sure and so frightened by the unknown.

Every moment of “Obvious Child” is basically perfect.  It balances the humor and realness of life, because we all know that regardless of our struggles life does not stop – even the funny parts of it.  “Obvious Child” is a special film, and one you should be watching (or re-watching) during this time.

Now on Netflix (US)

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