Film Review: Obvious Child

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Have you ever sat down and thought to yourself, “I wish there were more Abortion Comedies in this world?”

…Yeah, I didn’t think so. But you might feel that way after seeing Obvious Child.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I walked into the theater last night. A light-hearted RomCom. A quirky, off-beat comedy with a few solid jokes, that ultimately falls a little flat. Maybe just 80 minutes of Jenny Slate being a big weirdo? That was always a possibility.

But no, Obvious Child is none of those things. It’s a straight up, laugh out loud, smart as all hell, full of heart Abortion Comedy. I put that in caps because I want everyone to understand that Abortion Comedy is a genre now. It’s true. This movie will be known as the first of many. Probably. Maybe. (Not really.)

Photo Credit: EPK.tv
Photo Credit: EPK.tv

The film follows the story of comedian Donna (Jenny Slate) who has just been “dumped up with,” as she puts it in her stand up. So naturally she gets super hammered, talks a lot about murder/suicide on stage to an understandably unresponsive crowd, and then goes home with a super hot guy named Max (Jake Lacy). Considering this genre we all have come to know and love since you started reading this article 2 minutes ago, I’m positive you know what happens next: They get married!

Kidding! Oh man, I had you going there. Donna actually gets pregnant and decides to get an abortion. She spends the remainder of the film being pursued by Max, while grappling with the issue of whether or not he has the right to know she’s aborting their drunk sex baby.

I know that sounds kind of heavy. It is heavy material. It’s one of the most honest portrayals of a woman deciding to get an abortion and actually going through with it. While I cannot speak from experience, I will say that Obvious Child took Donna through all the complexities I’d expect a woman might feel when faced with this situation. Donna knows her choice to get an abortion is kind of a big deal. It makes her sad, but at the same time she knows it’s not the end of the world. And most importantly, the film shows why a woman might decide to make this choice and be completely okay with it.

Something I also think is important about Obvious Child: Donna has the support of other women in her life, who believe she is making the right choice. Her best friend Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann) is there for her every step of the way, buying her a pregnancy test, telling her she’s definitely not pregnant, being a shoulder to cry on when she is indeed pregnant, yelling at her that Max doesn’t deserve even a lick of her time. We get another rarity here with Nellie: A portrayal of a realistic female friendship, made up of two human woman with their own thoughts and feelings. And as a human woman, Nellie reveals that she had an abortion when she was in high school, which really enables Donna to understand that it’s okay, and that it’s going to be okay.

Later in the film, a distraught Donna decides to visit her mother (Polly Draper) and tell her what’s going on. Donna is afraid to come out with it, believing her mother will be furious. Instead, Donna’s mom is supportive, and tells her the story of when she got an abortion in the 60s. It was a very powerful moment in the film, showing this comedic film’s true importance. Despite knowing that Donna’s mother was okay and obviously able to have a child later in life, I was on the edge of my seat, scared for her as she described her illegal, kitchen table abortion in some random house in Jersey. To Donna, abortion is an upsetting life inconvenience. To her mother, it was a necessary danger.

I would say 90% of abortions in media end with the woman deciding to keep her baby. The other 10% are dramatic, resulting in intense regret, sadness, or possibly an extreme numbness. I’m sure both of those outcomes happen, I really am. But I’m also positive that most of the time, it happens a lot like Donna’s did.

Now, let us all take a moment and realize that all of that wonderful complexity of Donna was brought to life by Jenny Slate. That’s right, Jenny Slate. Former SNL cast member, voice and creator of Marcel the Shell, and of course Jean-Ralphio’s even crazier sister Mona-Lisa on Parks and Recreation whose pregnancy test brand of choice is “Womb! There is it.” I was beyond impressed with Slate’s performance in this film. I’ve always been a huge fan of hers, but before Obvious Child I have only seen Slate play hilarious caricatures. The subtlety with which she teeters between slowly falling for Max while trying to avoid him because she’s having his abortion is astounding. She could make the audience laugh and cry with a single sentence, such was her comedic flair enveloped in the often depressing reality of her character’s life. Her standup routines, scattered throughout the film, are nothing short of genius – keeping the audience in hysterics even when the material does not go over well with the fictional audience, while simultaneously managing to move along the plot of the film and reveal new depths about Donna’s character.

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With that, I want to make sure it is very clear: This movie was effing hilarious. I did not stop laughing for the full 80 minutes. Everything that comes out of Donna’s mouth is smart, unexpected, and an utter riot. Nellie and Max both provide a welcome environment for her witticisms, while maintaining their own personalities and in many cases bringing their own very different brands of comedy to the table. I was enamored by every cast member, each for their own unique characterizations and abilities to bounce off of each others banter.

Obvious Child manages to take an incredibly controversial subject, and let us each understand it a little better, while always ready with a punch line to let us laugh about it. It’s certainly not for everyone, but that makes me kind of sad, ya know? When a film has this much balance and smarts that I have happily labeled it an Abortion Comedy, shouldn’t we all be able to enjoy it and even learn something from it?

All I can tell you is, this is one Abortion Comedy I will be going to see again.

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