Thursday, June 26, 2014

Obvious Child

Review by Bob Ignizio

In Judd Apatow's KNOCKED UP, two characters who barely know each other get drunk and have sex without protection, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. These characters are both adults, and given everything else we see about them, probably at least a little to the left of center. And yet, when discussing how to deal with this situation, they can't even bring themselves to say the word “abortion” (they refer to it by the euphemism “shmashmortion”), never mind actually discussing the possibility of having one. This frankly came across asn unrealistic to many viewers, and some accused Apatow of playing it safe so as not to offend any pro-life audience members.That certainly can't be said of OBVIOUS CHILD.

Something of a rebutall to Apatow's film, writer/director Gillian Robespierre's OBVIOUS CHILD starts with a similar premise. Stand-up comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) has just been dumped by her boyfriend and lost her job. This leads to a night of heavy drinking and, eventually, unprotected sex with a Max (Jake Lacy), a guy she has just met. Like Apatow's film it's a romantic comedy with a lot of crass, raunchy humor, but the similarities pretty much end there. 

Rather than treating abortion as something so taboo its very name cannot be uttered, Robespierre makes it the central focus of her film. One might think that a romantic comedy about abortion would be something of an oxymoron, but OBVIOUS CHILD pulls it off. Sometimes the jokes Donna cracks might seem a bit flippant, but given that the character is a stand-up comedian it makes sense that humor would be her way of dealing with her difficult situation. As for the romance between Donna and Max, we've certainly seen less likely couples in rom-coms.

This is Robespierre's first feature film, an expansion of an earlier short of the same name (also starring Slate) she made in 2009. There's not much to her style as a director that really stands out, but for a low budget film that spends most of its time having its characters talk to each other, that's not really an issue. A short scene with David Cross seems a bit unnecessary, and the film perhaps relies a bit too much on Donna's job as a comedian to get its jokes in, but overall it's an entertaining first feature that manages to tackle a tricky issue in an entertaining way. Those who are firmly on the pro-life side of the abortion debate will likely beg to differ, but that kind of goes without saying. 3 out of 4 stars.

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