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Saturday, June 7, 2014


Courtesy of A24 Films
2014, 83 minutes
Rated R for language and sexual content

Review by Joshua Handler

This is a re-publishing of my original ND/NF review from March 30, 2014. 

Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child is a gutsy, sharp, and warm-hearted debut film with outstanding performances from Jenny Slate, Gaby Hoffmann, Gabe Liedman, Jake Lacy, and Polly Draper, among many others (the entire cast is great).  Described as an "abortion comedy" by many, the film is indeed a film centered around abortion that is funny.

The film follows a stand-up comedienne, Donna Stern (Slate), who sleeps with Max (Lacy), after breaking up with her boyfriend.  She then ends up pregnant and decides that she wants an abortion.

The standout aspect of the film is Jenny Slate who gives a genuine, relatable, and hugely funny performance as Donna.  Slate has a natural charm that carries the film.  I was with Donna every step of the way.  Donna is like so many people that we all know, which makes watching her incredibly amusing.  Slate nails the stand-up sequences, in particular.  They are the highlight of the film, as they're brutally honest, laugh-out-loud funny, and again, relatable.  Gaby Hoffmann (Crystal Fairy) gives a sweet, racy, and heartfelt performance as Nellie, Donna's best friend.  Like in Crystal Fairy, her unusual presence brightens every scene, and her chemistry with Slate is very strong.  Polly Draper's supporting performance as Donna's mom is unexpectedly moving.

While I wish the screenplay had played around a bit more with the typical Brooklyn twenty-something storyline and I wish some of the jokes (outside of the stand-up) had landed harder, this is a screenplay that should be praised for its honesty, smart characterizations, and the simple fact that it made a story centered around abortion funny.  During the post-screening Q&A with Robespierre, Slate, Liedman, and Elisabeth Holm, the film's producer (who also has story credit), the crew discussed how they wanted to see a movie where a woman wants to have an abortion and actually go through with it with conviction.  As they mentioned, one in every three women has had an abortion, so this is obviously a topic that many can relate to.  I give the filmmakers an immense amount of credit for telling the story of a strong woman who has an abortion and then moves on with life.

In Obvious Child, I cared for Donna and Max.  I frequently couldn't care less about central romances in romantic comedies, but in Obvious Child, I actually wanted the two to end up together.  Donna and Max's relationship is treated with respect and realism, so I cared.

Overall, while it has some flaws, Obvious Child is a smart, original piece of work that was very enjoyable to watch.  When A24 releases on June 6, you'll want to see this to say that you saw the film that announced Gillian Robespierre to the world and the film that turned Slate into a movie star.


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