From first time director Gillian Robespierre (who also wrote this film) comes a comedy about a struggling comedian and a one-night stand gone wrong resulting in an unexpected pregnancy.
The film starts on stage with struggling comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) whose jokes are drawn from real life experiences. After revealing details of her boyfriend in her stand-up routine, he breaks up with her in the bathroom, telling her he’s sleeping with her friend.
The funniest scene in the film is when she’s drunk calling him multiple times, with various personalities bordering on anger, hurt, revenge, pain, name calling and resignation. Her best friend Nellie (Gabby Hoffman) puts things into perspective by saying he’s a smelly jerk not worth her time. The book store where she works is going out of business, leaving Donna jobless and boyfriendless. Donna does her next stand-up routine drunk and sloshed, with her jokes falling flat which leaves the audience stunned and in silence. In the crowd is straight laced Max (Jake Lacy) who is disarmingly captivated by Donna and her drunken routine. They meet, they laugh and they wind up having wild drunken sex.
Though this film has cute, somewhat funny moments, what it does well is capture the honesty of a twenty something woman immature about life and love still running to her parents (played with sensitivity and humor by Richard Kind and Polly Draper) for answers. Finding out she’s pregnant, Donna quickly makes the decision to have an abortion and the film then takes you on the pleasant ride of Donna’s journey to a somewhat limited maturity.
As a comedy this film sometimes misses the mark. It is gentle satirical humor but also uncomfortable with few laughs. It tackles the subject of abortion with honesty but lacks the depth of emotion that comes with making such a moral decision. The developing friendship and relation with Max hints at a growing maturity in that he supports her with her decision and through the procedure, with the film ending abruptly with them watching a movie on the couch. I would’ve preferred the story to continue with their relationship and how Donna approaches a mature relationship with her stand-up comedy routine. Can a mature relationship provide enough fodder for the struggling comedian?
Obvious Child allows Donna to be herself but fails to explore what actually lies under her surface that makes her so immature. Most of the comedy routines seem improvised, much like the story except for the realistic tone of dealing with having an abortion. The subject is a brave attempt for first time director Robespierre that is cloaked in the persona of Donna being an Obvious Child at her age which entertains on a small scale, but is still a film worth watching for a few laughs.
Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gabby Hoffman, Richard Kind
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Company: A24 Films
Now Showing: DVD
MPAA Rating: R (sexual content, language)