“Obvious Child” a Feminist Romantic Comedy
By Skip Sheffield
Jenny Slate is one gutsy woman. As star of “Obvious Child” she is at the center of a storm of controversy.
In 2009 Slate gained notoriety by accidentally dropping the “F bomb” on Saturday Night Live, which effectively sank her chances as a cast member. That same year she starred in a 20-minute short that grew into “Obvious Child.” The role of female stand-up comedian was created expressly for Slate by writer-director Gillian Robspierre with Karen Maine.
It took Robspierre four years to cobble together finances to produce “Obvious Child.” Now that the film is finally complete, in theaters June 27, a protest movement has been launched over NBC-TV’s refusal to run a trailer advertising the film. The reason? Abortion is a key part of the plot.
Planned Parenthood was out in force at the advance screening of “Obvious Child” in Boca Raton. The organization fears the conservative movement will take away a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a child. It’s an emotional, divisive issue, and it is not funny at all. Yet “Obvious Child” is a comedy mostly, about Jenny Slate’s hapless Jewish stand-up comic from Brooklyn named Donna Stern. Donna’s self-deprecating shtick is about her shortcomings as an ideal woman. It really is funny, at times blunt and gross subjects, as delivered by Slate. We meet Donna during a particularly bad stretch of luck. Her boyfriend has dumped her for another, prettier woman. The tiny, offbeat used book store where she works days is going out of business.
One night, drowning her sorrow, Donna hits it off with Max (Jack Lacy), a nice guy from Vermont. They end up at his apartment, and Donna awakes the next morning wondering what happened. Max is a responsible adult and he had a condom, but sometimes there are slipups. It is not much later Donna takes a pregnancy test and leans she has been impregnated.
Donna is resolute about getting an abortion as early as possible. Her parents Jacob (Richard Kind) and Nancy Stern (Polly Draper) are understanding and supportive. Donna does not even tell Max the news, and when the truth comes out, Max, who has fallen in love with her, is entirely on Donna’s side.
You could call “Obvious Child” a feminist comedy-romance. Obviously if you equate abortion with murder you are going to hate this film, so be advised of the subject matter. I am a firm supporter of the First Amendment, and I feel people have a right to see this film if they want to. I just hope we don’t see protests with metaphorical pitchforks and torches.