Film Diary 2014: Obvious Child

Jenny Slate takes a sip in Obvious Child

Jenny Slate takes a sip in Obvious Child

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This feature directorial debut by Gillian Robespierre is both a gently played topical drama and a laugh-out-loud funny comedy treat, which slyly sneaks in a little romance right under your nose, whilst also gleefully denouncing rom-coms.


Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is a comedian in her late twenties, the book store she works for is closing down, and she's just found out her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a woman he now plans to start a relationship with. She doesn't take the break up well, having a little meltdown on stage, drinking heavily, and then - in the midst of all this - she has a one night stand with Max (Jake Lacy).


A few weeks later Donna finds out she's pregnant and books herself in for an abortion, the plot contrives that she must wait a few weeks until the procedure can be done, and then Max begins to reappear in her life.


First and foremost, this film is not an "abortion movie", it's not here to lecture the audience, it assumes that the audience doesn't need lecturing, it makes what points it does with grace and subtlety. It's commendable in that it shows a side of everyday life that's often ignored or brushed under the carpet in most films, and it does so in a non-sensationlist, matter-of-fact way.


If anything, it has a lot in common with last year's Frances Ha, a similarly New York set tale of a twenty something a little lost in life. As with that film it's bolstered by an absolutely fantastic lead performance, in this case Jenny Slate is magnificent as Donna, creating an immediately relatable and likable character. She's also surrounded by a note perfect supporting cast, with Gaby Hoffmann especially brilliant as her friend Nellie, whilst Richard Kind and Polly Draper are delightful as Donna's seperated parents.


Alongside this the film has an under-stated look, a fantastic soundtrack (the titular Paul Simon song is present and correct), and whilst some of the drama can be a little contrived at times, it's all done with such warmth, charm and humour that it'll leave you with a big grin on your face (and a few tears on your cheeks). Probably one of the best American films you'll see this year.

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