Obvious Child begins with 20-something comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) talking on stage about stains on her underwear. Her standup routine includes highly personal observations, a la Louis CK, but Donna is not nearly as funny.
Offstage, she generates laughs. When her boyfriend dumps her, she goes to her apartment and humorously consumes a whole bottle of wine. Later, she stands across from the boyfriend’s place for some “light stalking” to see him walk out with his new love.
Along with the breakup, she learns that her day job at an independent bookstore will soon end. Life sucks. She drowns her sorrows by drinking to excess and hooking up for a one-night stand with a stranger, Max (Jake Lacy). When she wakes up she spots her undies with the aforementioned stains.
When Donna realizes she’s pregnant, Obvious Child gets into gear. She decides to get an abortion, scheduled for Valentine’s Day. But will she go through with the plan? What will her mother (Peggy Draper) say? Should she tell Max about the pregnancy and abortion plan and should he have a say in the matter?
It’s wise that Obvious Child does not get into the political and moral issues raised by abortion. It is a polarizing topic but abortion has been legal in the U.S. for several decades. Her decision forces Donna to grow up a bit and take responsibility, rather than continue to drift through her twenties.
Obvious Child might’ve worked better if Donna Stern were a funnier standup comedian. Some of her routines are personally cathartic. They advance the story, but lack consistently funny punch lines.
It may be a risky move to cast SNL alum Jenny Slate in the lead role, but she has real talent and shows potential for a good film future. Slate is funny, cute and likeable.
This small film (85 minutes) is not for everyone. Its dialogue and central story may be off-putting to many. But director and co-writer Gillian Robespierre is to be saluted for making a movie that’s not your cookie-cutter rom-com—not hardly!