Comediennes have been gaining more steam and more attention in the last few years and we’re finally seeing more roles for them as well. Actresses like Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig have been killing it at the box office lately, allowing other women the opportunity to seek out funnier, more independent roles. It also helps that we, as a society, are understanding that women can be as raunchy as men and allowing that to become the norm’.
A few nights a week, Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) performs stand-up comedy at a comedy club in New York. Her material is far from the norm’ from that of most women, as she has no issue being vulgar and intimate with her audience. Donna is often accompanied by her best-friend Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann) and her gay best-friend, Joey (Gabe Liedman). With every performance, her work gets more personal, which isn’t always a good thing. After discovering that her boyfriend cheated on her, Donna reaches a low-point in her life and it takes a while to get back in the game.
When she’s finally ready, Donna spends a drunken night with Max (Jake Lacy) and we’ll just say that some things happen between them. Afraid of committing too early, Donna sneaks out the next morning, suspecting she’ll never need to see Max again. A few weeks later, Donna discovers that she’s pregnant and soon begins to question her life decisions. Her mother and father (Richard Kind & Polly Draper) attempt to comfort her, but it’s something that Donna must deal with herself. She also has to decide what she wants to do with her career and whether or not she’ll tell Max, who’s actively trying to see her again.
Obvious Child boldly goes where few films have dared to go before, making the true statement that women can be as funny as men and that we should stop telling them what is okay for them to do/say. Our world is changing rapidly and it’s becoming more “socially acceptable” for women to break away from the traditional things that they were once supposed to do. In the last few years alone, we’ve seen some hilarious female-driven comedies that have proved that women are just as funny as men and that we need more female-driven films. If we truly want to be equal, we should all be able to make the same jokes, no matter the content or vulgarity.
Jenny Slate was fantastic during her short run on SNL and this film is proof that her comedic talent is being realized and utilized. Slate’s comedienne is unabashedly funny, never wavering in her words and her improvisational skills. Her humor akin to that of a vulgar man’s and the subject matters can range in their inappropriateness. The best thing is that she’s proof that the same comedy works for both genders. She’s going to say some offensive, questionable, and disgusting things, but they’ll have you holding your sides as you’re bursting with laughter. Factor in her quirky sense of humor and her unapologetic “controversial” opinions and you’ve got one of the best female leads that 2014 has seen.
Aside from Slate’s captivatingly hilarious performance, there’s a slew of supporting performances that only increase the humor and humanity in this film. Jake Lacy was one of the better parts of the last season of The Office and his odd presence, sense of humor, and kind heart make him a perfect match for Slate. The two share a strange bond and they’re complete dorks together, which makes them all the more appealing as a potential couple. Gabby Hoffmann is the tougher best-friend that keeps Slate in line and she often surprises with more drama than comedy. On the other end of the spectrum, Gabe Liedman’s gay best-friend never lets the humor stop and he and Slate play wonderfully off of one another. Even David Cross manages to make the most of his short screentime.
Writer/Director Gillian Robespierre chose to make a film that deals with abortion and she doesn’t turn it into some political spectacle. She chooses a side and makes her film, never making it anything other than a film about Slate. It’s absurd that people criticized this film for that reason, as they’re no longer observing this film as a film. I get that it’s hard to not be biased, but I applaud Robespierre for making the film that she wanted to and for sticking by it. She crafted an often hilarious, sometimes dramatic film that works on nearly every level. She pays close attention to her characters and their relationships, and she also portrays her characters as equal humans, all acting the same and going about their lives in similar ways. What more can you ask for?
At only 84-minutes long, Obvious Child goes by in a flash and I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about that. I really enjoyed this film and was engaged with it all the way through, but I felt like there was more that could’ve happened. It was as if the film was striving to be as short as it could be, without being classified as a short film (which this film is actually based on). Some of the relationships are rushed and some of them we’re just thrown into the middle of. David Cross, while funny, has little-to-no background and we’re just supposed to go along with whatever his character says? I also thought that Slate’s parents could have played a larger role, as they’re separated but heavily involved in her life. We often get the mother’s side, but the father and his advice is hardly there. Again, these are minor complaints in a very satisfying film.
Obvious Child isn’t necessarily a romantic-comedy, but both of those genres work pretty well, thanks to the enormous effort by everyone involved in this film. Jenny Slate is the standout star, commanding the screen with her presence and humor and never letting you stop to catch your breath. Her work here proves that she’s a comedic force to be reckoned with, but she also proved that she can work with any other type of character. Gillian Robespierre does a fantastic job with keeping this film focused on the characters and the confidence in her writing/directing clearly shows as your appreciation for this film grows. The film could’ve been a bit longer and we could have spent some more time with some secondary characters, but that doesn’t do much to sway the fact that Obvious Child is a really great film.
Obvious Child Trailer