Obvious Child

Photo courtesy of A24

“Obvious Child” (2014)

Donna  (Jenny Slate) is a struggling stand-up comedian that works at a legendary New York City bookstore so that she can continue her dream of making it big doing comedy.  She has supportive parents and a number of close friends, including her best friend, Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann).  But things go downhill fast in Donna’s world.  We first meet Donna she is doing her stand-up set in a small comedy club.  Donna is funny and smart, and the audience is really enjoying her performance.  Unfortunately for Donna, her boyfriend does not enjoy her talking so freely and intimately about their relationship.  It’s very evident that the boyfriend doesn’t appreciate been made fun of and not only breaks up with her in a comedy club bathroom but confesses that he has been seeing one of Donna’s good friends, and they are moving in together.  The bookstore she dearly loves is closing, leaving her without a steady income. The next night after the breakup, Donna proceeds to go on stage and do her stand-up drunk. Let’s just say the audience that night learns much more than they ever wanted to about Donna and her problems.

Obvious Child

Photo courtesy of A24

Forced to go out by one of her friends, she meets Max (Jake Lacy), a cute but seemingly harmless guy.  They hit it off, even bonding over peeing in the street (a time honored tradition of late night revelers in NYC). They end up sleeping together, and Donna makes a well-timed but hasty retreat from his apartment before he wakes up. Donna thinks she has made the perfect getaway until a few weeks later, she discovers that she just might be pregnant. She tells Nellie “I remember seeing a condom; I just don’t remember what it did.” When she takes a pregnancy test and determines she is pregnant, very quickly she decides to get an abortion. It’s not something she takes lightly, but Donna knows that she isn’t ready to have a child. “Obvious Child” is a funny, touching film written and directed by Gillian Robespierre.  The dialogue in this film is some of the best written scenes between characters in the past year. There are some great conversations between Donna and her friends/family, including an excellent scene between Donna and her mother that appears late in the film.   Robespierre has also has a nice, light touch with the stand-up scenes, some of which flow too naturally not to be improvised by the actors.  Robespierre treats Donna with a loving touch but not too sentimental, so that we see Donna for all her neuroses.

Obvious Child

Photo courtesy of A24

Slate shows a real sense of getting everything she can out of a comedic scene without being annoying.  There is a great scene where Donna is staking out her ex-boyfriend’s apartment, trying to decide if she can see him, constantly making deals with herself, trying to leave while attempting to find out what he is up to. Slate has that quality about her presence on screen that while she never totally dominates a scene, you are still drawn to her. We instantly like her even if we want to shake her up a bit to get her to wise up. Slate’s stand-up is wonderfully self-deprecating, and she delivers it with ease.  Even when Donna’s routine is bombing (like when she does her stand-up drunk), it’s hilarious. Slate is supported nicely by a great group of actors, including the always funny Gabby Hoffmann, who plays Nellie, the friend that is always there to pick up the pieces when Donna world collapses…and it happens a lot. Richard Kind and Polly Draper play Donna’s parents, both of which always seem to have helpful advice or a word of encouragement for their daughter.  Kind is wonderful in his low key way, and Draper gives Donna’s mother just the right mix of toughness and understanding. You have to be brave to be a stand-up comic.  It takes real guts to stand in front of people and talk about very personal things like love, sex and abortion. You also have to be brave and maybe a little neurotic to live in New York City.  Robespierre and Slate gives us a character that is brave, but isn’t afraid to let down her defenses to connect to someone else in her life. While abortion is the centerpiece of the film, it’s not about the act. The film is about relationships, both good and bad. It’s about how we deal with them.  There’s a fine line between making a comedy or a drama, and this film perfectly mixes the two into a film that is heartwarming and funny.  My Rating: Full Price

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again The film is currently playing  at UA Tara Cinemas 4 and Lefont Sandy Springs.

“Obvious Child” Website


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