In Obvious Child, comedienne Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is just a regular twenty-something. On stage, Donna is very comfortable with herself; her comedy is cruel, crude and honest. Off-stage, Donna’s life is a mess – she’s lost her job, her boyfriend, and finds herself pregnant for Valentine’s Day.
Obvious Child is being sold as an “abortion romantic comedy”, which it is – it’s a movie that deals with abortion and is a romantic comedy, but to label it as such is doing the film a disservice, when it’s doing the topic of abortion a service. The film deals with abortion, yes, but it’s a non-issue in the film – there is no pandering about it, no worrying – the film is more than that; it’s about finding yourself when you’re completely lost and being open to love in spite of whatever circumstances may hinder it. The film is as raw and as honest as its main character, played exceptionally by the supremely talented Jenny Slate. For those unaware, Jenny Slate is having a moment; she started on Saturday Night Live but left after 7 months and she has since gone on to do great work on House of Lies, Parks & Recreation and The Kroll Show. Most of her TV work has been heavily comedic and while this is mostly an extension of herself, her portrayal of Donna feels very authentic. Writer and director Gillian Robespierre does a fine job in both fields and the films never feels slight or unpolished for her first time.
To best describe Obvious Child, it’s like a mix of Louie and Girls at their best. It’s not as abstract or isolating as an episode from those series, but as honest in its portrayal of its characters. Oftentimes, films like Obvious Child can falter by trying too hard to be poignant or extending beyond it’s limited setting. Obvious Child knows exactly what it is, what it wants to do and does it all right. It’s funny, effective and moving in all the right ways.