Although she’s had a few great reoccurring roles on TV shows like “Parks and Recreation,” Jenny Slate is a comedic actress who’s rarely been given a chance to shine on screen. After accidentally dropping the f-bomb, she was under utilized on “Saturday Night Live” and left after a season. Then she had some supporting roles in “The Lorax,” “This Means War,” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip wrecked,” where none of the actors came out looking good. In “Obvious Child,” Slate is finally given a chance to show off her full range as both a comedian and actress, proving that she’s a star in the making capable of tremendous feats.
Based on a short film written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, “Obvious Child” centers on a young comic named Donna Stern (Slate). Donna is the epitome of almost every modern day new adult. She’s nearly 30, still paying off her student loans, still mostly dependent on her parents, still unable to find a steady job, and still has absolutely nothing figured out. Her life continues to spiral downhill after getting dumped by her boyfriend, who she lightly stalks for the following week or so. Donna ends up having a one night stand with a nice guy named Max, played by Jake Lacy, aka New Jim, to those who were still watching “The Office” in season nine. A little bit down the line, Donna discovers that she’s been impregnated and decides to get an abortion on Valentine’s Day.
We’ve seen a ton of movies about women going through unplanned pregnancies, some good like “Juno” and others horrendous like “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1.” Yet, few movies have centered on a woman going through with an abortion. Granted, it’s a tricky subject that most writers wouldn’t dare touch. That’s not to say that the a-word hasn’t been touched upon at all in film or television. Most of the time, though, it’s only briefly glanced over and the woman ultimately decides to keep the baby after all. “Obvious Child” tackles abortion head on and addresses it with humor, heart, wisdom, and sincerity.
It’s often amazing just how funny and warm “Obvious Child” is despite its difficult subject matter. What’s even more impressive is that the film never attempts to villainize any of its characters. There are no disapproving parents, bitter baby daddies, one-dimensional protesters, or Planned Parenthood bombing nuts. The film itself isn’t even really about choosing between pro-choice or pro-life. There’s no end-all easy answer when all is said and done. “Obvious Child” simply shows a woman trying to live her life and live with the choices she makes.
If the very idea of abortion is blasphemous in your eyes and there’s no room for discussion, “Obvious Child” probably isn’t for you. Even if you’re pro-choice, there are times in “Obvious Child” when it’s hard not to feel uncomfortable. What gets the audience through the experience, though, is that Slate provides us with such a lovable, identifiable character to hold our hands throughout. Although some might have a hard time sympathizing with her, Slate makes it next to impossible to dislike Donna. She gives the whole film an infectiously happy vibe, proving that there can be a light even under the darkest of circumstances. I never thought there could be a feel good movie about abortion, but “Obvious Child” is the living proof… of course “living proof” might not be the best choice of words.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at nspake@asu.