It’s Your Right To Choose To See This Movie
By Johnny Pomatto
One of my favorite films of the last several years is the Nick Hornby adaptation “High Fidelity.” That film speaks so many truths about relationships and breakups in such a funny way, that I’ve always considered it a perfect date movie. Of course I’ve seen arguments stem from viewings of that film when some events and situations play too real to life, so I have to qualify my recommendation bit. “High Fidelity” is a perfect date movie for couples that are very comfortable and secure in their relationships. With its hilarious characters and dialogue but complex and all too relatable subject matter, Gillian Robespierre’s OBVIOUS CHILD is that same kind of film, and one of the very best films I’ve seen this year.
Jenny Slate plays Donna, a comedian whose act is just starting to mature, while she is not. After she performs a routine about farting in front of her boyfriend and being amazed that he hasn’t broken up with her yet, her boyfriend breaks up with her. Devastated by the news, Donna dives into a stupor that reaches a new low as she broaches the subject in her act, depressing herself and a whole comedy club in the process. Luckily Max, (a winning and friendly to a fault Jake Lacy) missed her set and becomes enamored with Donna afterwards, as the two knock back drinks, leading them to an inevitable one night stand.
A few weeks later Donna suddenly realizes that she’s pregnant and doesn’t hesitate for a minute, knowing that her only choice is to get an abortion. This isn’t a political film, and politics don’t even occur to Donna when making her choice. It’s her first and only thought, as she is still very much a child herself and she knows more than anyone that she doesn’t have the means or maturity to raise a baby. The dilemma and conflict in the film is more about how to tell Max, someone whom Donna describes as “uber-Christian” without really knowing him, that she is going to have his abortion.
All of this is played with quirky levity, but Robespierre never creates a situation that’s just for laughs. While so many funny women are portrayed as being able to deal with any issue with bulletproof emotions and irreverent cynicism, it’s so refreshing to see a funny woman who is still deeply affected by the pain and difficulties in her life while still remaining funny and optimistic. And while Donna doesn’t wrestle too hard with the choice to get an abortion, she still doesn’t take the decision lightly. In one scene, she asks her friend (played by Gaby Hoffman) about her personal experience with her teenage abortion, who tells her “I still think about it, but I never regret it.” At this point of the film we’re still uncertain if Donna, who does seem to live life without regret while still being all too aware of the consequences of doing so, will have the same feeling. You can see that she likes Max so much and laments that their meeting is being soured by these circumstances. In making her decision, she might be dooming a promising relationship. Donna may be strong and resolute on her own, but she’s in dire need of support from everyone in her life, including Hoffman and her parents played by Richard Kind and Polly Draper. In the end, she lays everything on the line and not only tells Max, but also an entire comedy club as she seamlessly weaves her life choice into her stand up comedy in a hilarious and poignant performance that speaks volumes to how much the week’s events have helped Donna grow up just a little more.
Max is a little underdeveloped as a character but the reason for this is that he’s kept in the dark of what the story is really about for most of the film. This actually works in his favor, as we get to see him become smitten with Donna and have that attraction only grow, even while she is subconsciously pushing him away with the actions of her anxieties. One can’t blame him for falling for Slate because the audience is sure to as well. This is a star-making role for Jenny Slate, who brings so many layers to her performance that this hilarious character never feels any less than a fully formed human life. I’m reminded of the same feeling I got last summer with Lake Bell’s performance in her film “In A World.” While I considered myself a Slate fan before, I’m now determined to never miss one of her future products. I can’t imagine a couple not having a delightful time at OBVIOUS CHILD, just as long as they’re prepared to see things get a little more real than they’re used to in your average rom-com.
Hear more of Johnny Pomatto’s reviews on his podcast MOVIES AND FILMS WITH JOHNNY AND FRIENDS available on iTunes
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