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.