“Obvious Child”: Romantic Comedy That Tackles Abortion

Romantic comedy Obvious Child, starring Jenny Slate and directed/co-written by Gillian Robespierre, is about a young comedienne’s unplanned pregnancy and her decision to have an abortion. For the way it approaches the issue, it’s been called subversive, revolutionary, groundbreaking, radical…you get the picture.

MORE ABOUT THE PLOT

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “Donna uses her life, including her old lovers and older underwear, as material for her act. Her boyfriend (Paul Briganti), a cheater who doesn’t like his sexual habits being fodder for comedy, dumps her. To the horror of her roommate Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann, wonderful), Donna indulges in a ‘a little light stalking.’ And then, here’s where the plot pivots, Donna buries her self-pity in a broken-condom one-nighter with a stranger, Max (Jake Lacy), a dude so square he wears topsiders. But Max is also, well, nice, so nice that Donna doesn’t tell him at first when she tests positive on her pregnancy test.”

THE TRAILER

THE MAIN THEMES

Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com: “The concept of using one’s life as fodder for your art is an underlying motif of’ Obvious Child…Sometimes Donna hits it out of the park. Other times, like when she goes on-stage wasted, in the wake of the breakup, and rambles on incessantly to an increasingly embarrassed audience, she falls flat on her face.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “Donna never doubts the wisdom of having an abortion. And Max, played by Lacy with laidback charm and sneaky wit, never doubts her right to make her own decisions. By Hollywood standards, these acts count as revolutionary.”

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: “Donna is surrounded by the typical young adult safety net: Parents — hers are divorced and delightful: Dad Jacob (Richard Kind) is the more nurturing sort, Mom Nancy (Polly Draper) the more demanding. Friends are her quasi-family: Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann), the one with good advice; fellow stand-up Joey (Gabe Liedman), responsible for unconditional support (Liedman is Slate’s real-life comedy partner). David Cross shows up for a quick turn as an older stand-up friend/lech named Sam.”

THE POTENTIAL ROMANCE

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon: “The abortion itself becomes a pivot point in the slow-developing relationship between Donna and Max, and in a surprising fashion. It isn’t the obstacle they have to overcome, or the force that threatens to tear them apart; ultimately, it’s the thing that brings them together…The historic moment of ‘Obvious Child’ is not about saying that abortion is safe and legal and that’s a good thing. It’s about saying that abortion gave these two people a shot at true love.”

THE OTHER ROMANCE

Amy Nicholson, LA Weekly: “The real love story is between Donna and the rest of womankind, the silent (in movies) but sizable majority that understands her decision. What will last is the strength of her friend Nellie’s support, her closer bond with her mother, and even the small smile she shares with another patient at the abortion clinic.”

OVERALL REVIEWS

Peter Debruge, Variety: “Until now, audiences haven’t had much choice when it comes to how pregnancy is handled onscreen. Attacking the status quo with infectious humor rather than strident criticism, Gillian Robespierre’s uproarious ‘Obvious Child’ centers a good, old-fashioned romantic comedy around a woman’s decision to abort a one-night stand gone wrong.”

Dana Stevens, Slate: “At just under an hour and half, this is one of the few movies I’ve seen in the past year that seems distinctly too short—an assessment that’s only in part complimentary. Several of the film’s most important relationships feel underdeveloped.”

Amy Nicholson, LA Weekly: “…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.”

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