The film centers around Donna Stern (Jenny Slate), a struggling comedian whose life is thrown into turmoil after her boyfriend leaves her for a so-called friend, and she loses her job at a second hand book store. Things look pretty bleak for our heroine, until hope arrives in the form of Max (Jake Lacy), a mild-mannered boy from Alabama whose dorky, clean-cut personality may be just what Donna needs. The two immediately hit it off, and after a painfully awkward first encounter, Donna becomes not only entranced by this boy, but also very very… pregnant.
In the hands of a less capable director, this film could have taken a more predictable, sorrowful turn, and yet Robespierre has taken an incredibly polarising issue like abortion, and deals with it in a way that is both extremely hilarious, and completely unapologetic, taking what is a taboo, and normalising it. Often films of this ilk can be accused of pushing too hard for an emotional reaction, and this is a notion our filmmakers ignores. Obvious Child is foremost a comedy, and at no point is that compromised by the intense subject manner at hand.
Obvious Child also has the fortune of being such a remarkably well cast piece of cinema, with Slate shining in the lead role, creating a character in Donna that is instantly endearing, and deeply familiar. The film is almost completely devoid of lulls and Slate is a big reason for that. Other notable performances include Richard Kind as Donna’s nurturing, puppeteer father Jacob, and Polly Draper as Donna’s over-bearing, yet kind mother Nancy.
There’s no denying that this picture will not play well to everyone, but for many of us, there is a lot to resonate with in the characters of Donna and Max. Which, while perhaps seeming like something of a concern, is exactly where this film triumphs.