Film, In Review: Obvious Child

Living is the best revenge.

Jenny Slate (Donna Stern) in "Obvious Child"

Jenny Slate (Donna Stern) in “Obvious Child”

Dangling on the precipice of life, Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) had everything under control, until she didn’t. The pillars that once kept her world upright no longer stand firmly beneath her and like a Victorian classic, her masterpiece unfolds tragically starting with the departure of a lover. Midnight looms, her beloved boyfriend Ryan (Paul Briganti), who flourishes as the metaphorical punching bag at the heart of her late night stand – up routine, tells Donna that he is leaving her for her best friend. Searching for reprieve, she escapes into the miniature crevices of her bookkeeping job only to discover that its own shelves will be collecting dust in less than a month. An empty bottle of red wine and a string of voice mails drenched in regret, later leads her to Joey’s (Gabe Liedman) bar for a nightly get away.

Gaby Hoffmann (Nellie) and Jenny Slate (Donna Stern) in "Obvious Child"

Gaby Hoffmann (Nellie) and Jenny Slate (Donna Stern) in “Obvious Child”

As chance would have it, a wild night out with a charming stranger Max (Jake Lacy), leaves her overwhelmingly pregnant, and devastatingly frayed. Emotional quicker picker upper, and best friend, Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann) then flocks to her rescue to help her pick up the shattered pieces of her manic life.

Written and Directed by Gillian Robespierre, “Obvious Child” is a film warped in familial tendencies, designed so as not to patronize its viewers with common archetypal pursuits. Enacted by a delightful cast of characters, “Obvious Child’s” honesty is slathered in heroism for a heroine with a burdening cause. Floating on the ripples of life like so many millennials, Donna finds herself at a crossroads. She is unemployed, broke, and unequivocally lost. In addition, her plethora of responsibilities now includes a tiny human of which she had no intention of having, and its bewildered father who just can’t seem to stay away. Rounding out the cast is Nancy Stern (Polly Draper) Jacob (Richard Kind), Donna’s parents, and Sam (David Cross), former acquaintance and retired friend.

For the most part, Robespierre has created a delightful niche for a languid genre.

Jake Lacy (Max) and Jenny Slate (Donna Stern) in "Obvious Child"

Jake Lacy (Max) and Jenny Slate (Donna Stern) in “Obvious Child”

“Obvious Child” decorates itself as a romantic comedy though it fails to clean the knife that so mercilessly plunged Juliet. There are moments of crisis throughout the film, but Robespierre disregards the need to linger on drama and focus instead, on the quintessential nuances.

The relationship Donna shares with her parents for instance, is one where Robespierre seamlessly captures the dynamics of parenthood. She flees from the city in an effort to seek their counsel but her journey isn’t without its barrings. Jacob, Donna’s father, is supportive, playful, and content with the life he leads. He spews together proverbial mantras at every turn because optimism is just his shtick. His ex – wife, Nancy, is more matter – of  -fact – ‘life is this way because you make it this way’ and eventually, Donna soon realizes that the past she welcomes was tolerant of her meanderings, her future can no longer sustain them.

Jenny Slate (Donna Stern) in "Obvious Child"

Jenny Slate (Donna Stern) in “Obvious Child”

Crawling on the heels of adulthood, her decision to have an abortion is an impeding reminder of the repercussions that will soon consume her. She makes an impulse choice due to circumstance yet, her choice is more calculated than we realize. Throughout the course of the film, Donna is constantly measuring herself against the weight of her decisions and their repercussions. She weighs the advice of her immediate counsel, considering the implications that will arise after said choice is made and as we watch her contemplate, we wonder if we would do the same. Donna’s situation, after all, is one that many people have surely encountered – not to mention the emotive portrayal by Slate is flawlessly virtuous – but the outcome condones particular consequences in its own right.

Regardless of circumstance, “Obvious Child” speaks to the petulant youth inside all of us. The film gives its crusader a viable circumstance and at her crossroads, fate undeniably lies in her own hands – in the hands of every young woman who has ever had to make that decision. Triumph is inevitable no matter the consequence because living is indeed, the best revenge.


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