In Theaters

Critics' Pick Obvious Child

Movie Details

Obvious Child
  • Genre: Comedy, Romance
  • Release Date: 2014-06-06 Limited
  • Running Time: 83 min.
  • Director: Gillian Robespierre
  • Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, Gabe Liedman, David Cross, Richard Kind, Polly Draper, Paul Briganti, Cindy Cheung, Stephen Singer
  • Writer: Gillian Robespierre
  • Distributor: A24 Films
  • Official Site: Obvious Child Official Site

When it comes to pregnancy, the movies have for years been curiously conservative. If a woman gets knocked up, she either loses the baby by accident (cue waterworks) or carries it to term (cue hijinks). Abortion, an option chosen by one in three nonfictional women, is verboten.

However, Obvious Child star and real-life comedian Jenny Slate isn't afraid of saying anything. The role of foul-mouthed, vulnerable, and impregnated Brooklyn standup Donna Stern fits her so well that her persona already seems fully formed, like Athena bursting from the skull of Louis C. K.

Donna's a struggling comic too smart to do anything but chase her comedy dreams, and too cynical to bother trying to actually succeed. Her uptight mom (Polly Draper) moans that she's "wasting her 780 verbal telling jokes about her diarrhea." Her two best friends, Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann) and Joey (Gabe Liedman, Slate's long-time sketch partner), dote on her as though Robespierre worries that we'll get sick of Donna if every 10 minutes someone doesn't remind us that she's brave and adorable.

Pro-life audiences won't fall in love with Donna; our national politics are too polarized for that. And her sense of humor will alarm people who can't imagine wearing the masks of comedy and tragedy at the same time: Before a show, Nellie tells her to go onstage and "kill it." Donna quips, "I actually have an appointment to do that tomorrow."

But Obvious Child is perfect for those who want more honesty in fiction, and survivors like Donna who know that sometimes the only way to get used to pain is by hitting a tender spot over and over and then letting the bruise heal.

Amy Nicholson

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