Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Solid Slate makes Obvious Child a first-rate rom-com

  • Print

A lot of the buzz surrounding Obvious Child concerns the fact that abortion is one of the indie rom-com's major plot points.

It's not a topic that readily lends itself to either rom or com, to be sure. And the film, directed by first-timer Gillian Robespierre, must be given credit for its approach, which neither demonizes abortion, nor presents it as an Important Topic.

It's matter-of-fact without being cavalier. Women get abortions, and though it's not a decision to be taken lightly, it's also not one that always causes hand-wringing angst and lifelong remorse.

What's more impressive about Obvious Child is that it's a lovely film about characters who feel real -- flawed and funny and infuriating and sweet.

No, there aren't many movies that actually depict a woman going through with an abortion, but lately, a romantic comedy that's both romantic and a comedy seems even more rare.

Aspiring standup comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) knows she's not ready to be a mother. She's in her late 20s, works in a bookstore and, as her mother points out, doesn't even know how to do her taxes. So when she finds herself pregnant after a fling with a totally unsuitable guy (preppy, slip-on shoes, gentile), she knows what she has to do, especially since she's just lost her job and been dumped by her boyfriend (which led to the hook-up in the first place).

One complication? Max, the adorable, inappropriate guy (Jake Lacey of The Office), doesn't seem to know he's supposed to be a one-night stand.

The film's appeal hinges on Slate -- probably best known for her role as the obnoxious Mona Saperstein on Parks and Recreation -- and she owns the screen, practically pulsing with energy. Like Sarah Silverman crossed with pre-nose-job Jennifer Grey, she is a foul-mouthed cherub, her acerbic wit countering her vulnerable side.

Donna's comedy act is decidedly adult (audiences may be more offended by her raunchy, scabrous standup than the film's pro-choice stance), but she'd be the first to admit she's immature -- a bit slovenly, a bit of a basket case. But for once, we're not rooting for the hunky guy to see the beauty behind the glasses; we want the woman to see the potential in the nine-to-fiver with the Oxford shirt and sensible shoes.

Obvious Child has all the familiar tropes -- the meet-cute (or meet-drunk) mismatched couple, the coincidental run-in, the sassy best friend -- but it makes them fresh, not merely a Brooklyn hipster version of a rom-com (it helps that Donna's feminist BFF is played by the fabulous, fearless Gaby Hoffmann in another of her almost-unhinged roles).

When Max and Donna exchange banter, it's the genuine, awkward, trying-to-impress-you conversation of a first date, not the stylized too-cool-for-schoolkids repartee of Juno.

In a stellar bit of casting, Donna's divorced parents are played by Richard Kind and Polly Draper (where has she been since thirtysomething?), and you genuinely believe Slate, with her wide, mobile mouth and husky voice, could be their offspring; you also believe it because they aren't Hollywood caricatures and their interactions ring with authenticity.

Obvious Child is not waving any particular political banner -- Donna is not striking a blow for all of womankind; she's having a medical procedure -- but there's a memorable scene where she sits, post-op, in a recovery room full of other women, some looking remorseful, others shyly smiling. It's a wordless acknowledgment of the fact that terminating a pregnancy is not, as some movies would have us believe, the act of sluts or sinners, but women of every stripe. They won't be unchanged by the experience, but they also probably won't be defined by it. And they might still get the guy.

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2014 D3

History

Updated on Friday, September 5, 2014 at 9:12 AM CDT: Corrects typo, corrects spelling of Gaby Hoffmann's name

9:54 AM: Replaces photo

10:05 AM: Adds video

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Humans of the Holidays (in Winnipeg)

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local- (Standup Photo). Watcher in the woods. A young deer peers from the forest while eating leaves by Cricket Drive in Assiniboine Park. A group of eight deer were seen in the park. 060508.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you be hitting up any Boxing Day sales?

View Results

Ads by Google