Film Review : Obvious Child (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 90%
Amazon Watch Instant

Directed By – Gillian Robespierre
Starring – Jenny Slate, Gabby Hoffmann, Jack Lacy, Richard Kind, Polly Draper, Gabe Liedman, and David Cross

A twenty-something comedienne’s unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront the realities of independent womanhood for the first time.

Rom-Coms. Like the ever so fragile horror genre, there is a very small window of success when it comes to romantic comedies. At least for me. I know a few people that can’t get enough of them. A few professional critics I read laud films like Love Actually and 500 Days of Summer. I’ve seen the latter. I thought it was okay. One of my favorite films of all time, Lost in Translation, could possibly be categorized as a Rom-Com but I wouldn’t say so. That film is a dream like look at empathy and loneliness but surprisingly establishes the exact quality that I look for when I watch something romantic, realism. Whether it’s funny or not, realism is what makes a good film from a bad one. I also think that tragedy can be a very useful but overused tool when it comes to these films. The Apartment had heavy tones dealing with adultery and suicide, yet was still hysterical and endearing. Blue Valentine was devastating as we see two people spiral out of love. Obvious Child is hilarious but deals with unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Maybe I’m just fucked up, but I just can’t like a romantic film unless something horrible happens. I guess that’s why I don’t consider Lost in Translation to be a rom-com. Nothing bad really happens. It’s just two people hanging out and developing a relationship.

Obvious Child does the opposite. It starts with the end of a relationship which catapults the films protagonist Donna, played INCREDIBLY by Jenny Slate, into a bit of a spiral. Donna is a comedian and brings her life on stage every time she gets up there. She eventually meets Max and here is where the films starts to develop into what ended up being such a pleasant surprise.

Like I said before, realism is important to me. I have to be able to feel like the characters in the film could actually exist in real life. No woman that Jennifer Lopez or Cameron Diaz have ever existed outside of Beverly Hills, Miami, or the upper west side. The majority of rom-com female leads make up the smallest percentage of what real women are like. Jenny Slate brings realism to this film. She’s awkward, anxious, and has no idea what she’s doing in her life. She reminds me of Greta Gerwig from Frances Ha except a little less hipster cool. Donna lives in Brooklyn, somehow pays only $500 in rent (which totally contradicts this whole realism theme), and works at a failing bookstore. She’s an everyday person. Thankfully, she’s also hilarious. I had a few laugh of loud moments while watching this. Slate, who appears regularly on comedy central shows such as The Kroll Show, has a natural sense of comedic timing which really helped me connect with her character. She just seemed like a person who is struggling to make an impact at 26 years old just like everybody else who is 26 is.

As the film progresses, Slate’s acting chops really start to show. I was surprised. I had heard that she was great in the film and saw that she was nominated for a Spirit award but she still caught me off guard. The tornado that her life ran into required some serious emotional cutbacks and Slate handled it perfectly. She was able to convey a girl who has no idea how she got herself into the situation perfectly. I was impressed.

The film tackles some sensitive subjects with honesty. Abortion isn’t a very widely used subject for film, especially comedies, but Obvious Child was able to take it on without getting too heavy, but also not insulting the situation with humor. I’m the type of person that cracks jokes at funerals and is laughing while being taken to the ER. I always have been. I use humor as a defense mechanism when things are too serious to handle, at least in public. When I’m alone or with family, the true feelings come out, and they did in this film. Those scenes were touching.

The supporting cast was good, but this is really Slate’s show. She didn’t carry the film because I think it was a very well written and directed movie, but I don’t think it would have been the same without her. The film is currently streaming on Amazon Instant and I’d totally recommend it.

4/5




Film Review : Maelstrom (2000)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 80%

Directed By – Denis Villeneuve
Staring РMarie-Jos̩e Croze, Stephanie Morgenstern, Klimbo, and Jean-Nicolas Verreault

After plunging her car into a river, a woman encounters a man who helps her come to terms with her life.

So…after seeing “Enemy” last week I decided that I needed to explore the back catalog of French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who is quickly becoming one of my favorite up and coming directors. As I wrote last week, “Incendies” is one of my favorite films ever and “Prisoners” and “Enemy” entertained the shit out of me. I’ve heard interesting things from “Maelstrom” and interestingly enough, it so happened to be near the front of my Netflix queue so I push it to the top and here we are. Honestly, I wasn’t floored with the film like I was floored with his other work but I have my reasons for both sides of the argument. I will also note that this review will be brief as I do not enjoy giving out too many details of the plot, which in the case for the film was all over the fucking place. This wasn’t a bad thing by the way.

So that description above the previous paragraph? Yeah, you can go ahead and forget that. The story is really about the life of Bibi, the daughter of a famous French fashion designer that is going through a bit of a life crisis. The film opens up with her getting an abortion and the fun times just start pouring out after that. Poor Bibi. She just couldn’t catch a break, mostly because she’s kind of an idiot but she’s our protagonist so we’ll give her some slack. Bibi goes on to make a few bad decisions and by the middle of the film, has a great deal of guilt racked up on her shoulders. Did I mention we have a talking fish as our narrator? I didn’t? Silly me. Not only is he a talking fish, but he is many talking fish who are getting cut up as the story progresses. The film had a thing with fish. Water, the color blue, fisherman, TALKING FUCKING FISH…you can see the theme here. It was like Villeneuve watched the Three Colors Triology and a shit load of David Cronenberg and decided to write and film this movie. For good measure, he added a bunch of creepy spoken word tracks from Tom Waits, you know, you jazz it up a bit.

So it seems like I’m bashing the film. I’m not doing that. I am just in a weird mood and the sarcasm is leaking from my fingers. Truth is a ended up liking the film. Sure it had flaws. This is one of the first major features of a young director. Have you ever seen the first films of some famous directors? Some are horrid. Some are funny. Some are like this where you can see the originality oozing from the screen but the final product just isn’t as polished or coherent as you would like. I think this is either because young filmmakers have had an entire lifetime of film ideas to put into their first one that they over do it a little. Take Alfonso Cauron for instance. The man just won Best Director at The Oscars but if you go back to his first film, “Love in the Time of Hysteria”, which I reviewed on this site by the way, you’ll notice a film that is far from the quality of his more acclaimed films. It was a funny film but that’s about all. “Maelstrom” on the other hand was able to deliver some emotional scenes backed with some gorgeous camera work. The story was a bit muddy at points and seemed to skip around leaving unresolved questions but it was an experiment and an entertaining one at that.

Seriously, there’s a talking fish in this movie. He’s got a cool accent. I don’t know what his purpose was but it made me laugh.

3/5

Suggested Viewing – Three Colors Trilogy, Naked Lunch, The Sweet Hereafter, Incendies, Head – On