There’s something honest and real in Obvious Child that seems new but isn’t. Yes, the topic is controversial and the “abortion comedy” may ruffle a few feathers but it is also a film that wholeheartedly deserves a chance by everyone because of the volumes it speaks on the subject in such a subtle way. It isn’t so much an abortion comedy as it is a comedy about life and growing up even if it means just doing it on your own terms, but also even if those terms were your fault and happened when you were drunk one night and forgot to use the condom.
Obvious Child follows Donna (Jenny Slate), a stand-up comedian who has just had her boyfriend dump her. On top of that, Donna’s day job at a local book store has ended after the shop is closed. She starts to unravel, which begins with a horribly awkward set about her break-up at her club, and culminates in her meeting the adorable Max (Jake Lacy) and having a one-night stand. Weeks later, she discovers that she is pregnant and decides to get an abortion.
This film reminded me a lot of 2011’s 50/50, which took on the subject of cancer in a comedic setting. Much like 50/50, Obvious Child never made fun of abortion but rather tried to lighten the mood around this controversial topic.
Slate, from SNL fame, gives a break-out performance that shows a level she hasn’t reached in her previous work. Outside of being the cast member that dropped the F-bomb on live television, Slate has carved out supporting roles as obnoxious personalities in shows like The Kroll Show and Parks and Recreation, and while they are funny, the heart she displays and the ability to convey the deep issues that Donna is feeling down beneath.
But where the film succeeds most is in the honesty and realism that it exerts both from its characters and from its story. Outside of Slate, there is something homely about her character’s mom and dad. The dad (Richard Kind) being outgoing and clearly the one that Donna goes to between the two (who are divorced). When she comes to him with her problems, he embraces her and finds an avenue that he thinks is best for her (and that she would enjoy).
When she goes to see her mother (Polly Draper), the cold air can be felt as the two sit across from each other exchanges small glances and minimal conversation. When she describes her issues, her mom tells her what she think is best and gives her options that aren’t where Donna is wanting to head. Instead of finding her path on her own, her mother tells her to meet with a business student of hers to get set up finding a job. But family still rules and a late scene between Donna and her mother when she reveals her largest problem is touching.
Obvious Child is dealing with a tough subject but treats it with care and shows that not everything has to be a dramatic typhoon. Slate brings humanity to the role and knocks it out of the park. Her ability to bring emotion and weight to her every expression makes the part more endearing than what it was on page. The film also always reminds you to remember that family is there through everything and sometimes family comes in the guise of someone not directly related to you, but who cares about you more than you know.