Obvious Child Director: Gillian Robespierre
Screenwriters: Gillian Robespierre
Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, Gabe Liedman, David Cross, Richard Kind, Polly Draper, Paul Briganti A24 Films
Rated R | 83 Minutes
Release Date: June 27, 2014
Jenny Slate. She’s an actress, stand-up comedian, and the creator of the Marcel the Shell With Shoes. You know her best from Saturday Night Live or her recurring roles on shows like Parks and Recreation, Bob’s Burgers, and Kroll Show. If you don’t know who she is, you’re about to. Jenny Slate is the next big thing.
In her new film, Obvious Child, Slate delivers a star-making performance as Brooklyn comedian Donna Stern. After getting dumped by her cheating boyfriend (Paul Briganti), the struggling twenty-something loses her job at New York’s Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books.
Donna is drowning her sorrows in booze at a dive bar when she meets Max (Jake Lacy), a straight-laced (i.e., unhip) business student from Vermont who wears button-ups and slip-ons. After a night of urinating in public together and dancing to Paul Simon songs, the two impulsive polar-opposites hook up. Weeks later, Donna discovers that she’s pregnant.
Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child is a subversive romantic comedy with a gutsy twist: boy and girl fall for each other while getting an abortion. After their one-night stand, it takes weeks of fighting and flirting for Donna and Max to get to know each other and evaluate if there’s more to their relationship than casual sex.
Donna confides in her friends Joey (Gabe Liedman) and Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann) but struggles with telling Max about her pregnancy – and her decision to abort it. And we – the audience – are cool with that, because we recognize that it’s her choice and that, if Max is a decent guy, he’ll understand and support her decision either way.
Robespierre’s film is so refreshing; tackling a sensitive, controversial subject with maturity, honesty, and humor. I want more films like this. I want to see more films written and directed by women. I want to see female-centric stories that explore difficult decisions in endearing and poignant ways. And I want to support filmmakers and artists who strive for authenticity in their cinematic endeavors. Edgy and sophisticated, Obvious Child is a well-crafted comedy-drama and the beginning of a promising career for Robespierre, who directs her feature debut with the confidence and aptitude of a seasoned filmmaker.
As for Slate, she shows impressive range as an actress here. She’s consistently captivating, whether she’s delivering crude, cringe-worthy jokes or weepily navigating an emotional crisis. There’s such a sense of vulnerability in her performance; she’s able to harness the character’s anxieties and insecurities as creative energy and find humor in the lowest points of her life.
I’m tired of big-budget blockbusters. I’m tired of remakes, reboots, sequels, and adaptations. And I’m beyond tired of films for men, by men, where women play supporting roles or love interests in a narrative focused solely on men. Being a man, I have a pretty firm grasp on what it’s like to be a man – I know what I, as a member of the male sex, deal with on a daily basis. I’m far more interested in experiencing stories from a distinctly different point of view – and that’s Obvious Child, an insightful and heartfelt film with a unique voice.
It’s early yet still, but I could easily see Robespierre’s film on my Best of 2014 list. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and it proves that those exciting, fresh voices are still out there – you need only tune out the shock-and-awe of summer’s uninspired and overdone spectacles and listen carefully.